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One Mississippi reviews


Sonny and Cher, Mississippi Coliseum, 1974.  A reader who wishes to remain anonymous gave me this photo.  This is the concert featured in the novel (I fictionalized it, of course...).

Selected reviews


Funniest novel I have read in 10 years! If you buy hardcover fiction, make this your next one. If you loved The Lovely Bones or Water for Elephants, you’ll love this one ... Great novels of adolescence should provide belly laughs and tragedy. This story, in which young Daniel Musgrove moves to Mississippi from Indiana in 1973 (his salesman father is transferred), delivers both. It also provides a priceless picture of the '70s and why we must never go there again. Suffice it to say that the high school's first black prom queen is hit by a car and wakes up thinking she's white, and the local church puts on a play called Christ! The Musical!
– Stephen King

I revel in the narrative company of Mark Childress, and in “One Mississippi,” he's once again not just satisfied with being impish and hilarious -- after he gets you laughing at his 1970s high school hell, then cringing at how fantastically he turns racism on its head, he hits you over the head with a frying pan (and yes, this is a good thing).
– Glen David Gold, author of Carter Beats the Devil

“One Mississippi” is a wonderful book, at once profound, touching, funny and full of surprises. I shall not again be able to consider the South, the seventies or American adolescence without thinking of Daniel Musgrove and Tim Cousins. One could hardly wish for more from a novel.
– Lynn Freed, author of The Curse of the Appropriate Man and House of Women

Mark Childress is at the top of his form in One Mississippi, an astonishing novel about a young man in a Southern high school during its first days of integration. It is about the madness of families and segregation, what it means to be a teenager, and what it means to be a human. It is about the very great cost of freedom, truth, and friendship. Wise, riveting, hilarious, painful, gentle and ferocious, “One Mississippi” is a wonderful read, every bit as good as “Crazy in Alabama,” yet utterly its own masterful creation.
– Anne Lamott, author of Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith, and Blue Shoe

An engaging Southern storyteller. . .Childress is a generous writer, he infuses each (character) with its own complexity, with humanity, so that even if the characters seem familiar they are not trite. . .(he) wants to remind readers of how subtle and uneven was the dawning of true racial awareness, and of the power struggles going on between whites and blacks in the '70s. Through the many tribulations he undergoes in "One Mississippi," Daniel ultimately learns that love and commitment rarely come in the forms you would expect, or hope for. Childress makes sure readers feel satisfied with that journey.
– Samantha Dunn, Los Angeles Times

If you are not already an admirer of Mark Childress' storytelling prowess . . . his vibrant new book might win you over, provided you enjoy revisiting the cruelties, stupidities, pettiness and high jinks of high school. . . . For Childress, the period offers a gold mine of comedy and tragedy. The issues that dominate and complicate the plot of "One Mississippi" (racism, family dysfunction, homosexuality, loneliness) couldn't be more relevant to contemporary readers old and young alike. Childress avoids the easy cliches and stereotypes. (Daniel) narrates as a wide-eyed onlooker, an enthusiastic chronicler who is more fascinated than appalled. . . Childress, like Flannery O'Connor, doesn't miss an opportunity to make us laugh as much as we wince. (His) prose is consistently inspired . . .By turns rollicking and troubling, as provocative as it is droll, "One Mississippi" is about as easy to resist as a riptide. This critic's advice is to go with its powerful flow.
– Marianne Gingher, Raleigh News and Observer

Childress's absorbing and offbeat novel follows events in the life of young Daniel Musgrove as his family relocates to rural Mississippi. . .Serious issues of race, identity, and loyalty are raised, and tragic and violent events occur, but the author retains a surprisingly light touch in this highly engaging read.
– Library Journal

Daniel navigates, often hilariously and sometimes harrowingly, the pratfalls of southern teenage life, where racial tensions abound and friendship is filled with uncertain and perhaps misplaced affections. . .Childress eloquently addresses racism, tentative adolescent love, family dysfunction, and the occasional exploding house with plenty of wit and insight.
– Booklist

“One Mississippi” opens with a scene of goofy adolescent thrill-seeking, the perfect metaphor for a teenager's sublime certainty that anything worth having will be mind-altering, dangerous to procure and, best of all, free . . . Childress, who has become a venerated chronicler of life in the American South . . . works it all in here: the heat, the kudzu, the UFO sightings, simmering racial animosity, appalling Baptist musicals based on the life of Jesus, the Dairy Dog, ramshackle poverty . . . In Daniel, Childress has created an underdog who doesn't exactly see the worst coming, but when it does, he rises obligingly to the heroic stature we require of losers. And though adult readers will be nervous long before Daniel, his innocence wins the reader's heart in this story of complicated betrayals. This is also a novel of firsts, as all coming-of-age tales must be, and Daniel's firsts (are) handled by Childress with the seat-gripping pace of a NASCAR race.
– Carrie Brown, Washington Post Book World

A first-ever date with a girl on prom night, the backseat of a Buick: a recipe for disaster, one way or another. “I closed my eyes and moved my face forward until it touched hers. I kissed. It felt odd. I opened my eyes. I was kissing her nose.” Despite its unnerving plunge into darkness late in the novel, “One Mississippi”, Mark Childress’s story of a northern boy’s coming-of-age in the South, is a warm and wonderful ride.
– O: The Oprah Magazine

Childress touches on all the bases -- faith, race, place and family -- in this coming of age tale. Minor, Miss., is America writ small in 1973 -- but there is nothing small about Mark Childress's fine novel, a perfect summer reading pleasure. It's big in all the ways that matter -- big in daring, big in insight, and big-hearted. Really, really big-hearted.
– Susan Larson, New Orleans Times-Picayune

A darkly entertaining ride of a novel from one of the New South’s most amiable yet sharp-eyed writers.
– Elissa Schappell, Elle Magazine

By the time young Daniel has graduated from high school, he and his best friend have been through horrible tragedy, hysterical comedy and high drama.
– Liane Hansen, “Weekend Edition,” NPR

An entertaining, sometimes painful and extreme look at what most have been through ... overlaid ... with kudzu, Friday night football, funny Southern food, hot Baptist girls ... and great characters who do the darndest things.
– Diane Hartmann, Denver Post

Witty, funny, touching and horrifying all at once.
– The Union, Nevada City, Ca.

“One” singular sensation!
– Wilmington Daily Star-News

Childress’s humorous little coming-of-age novel rips off its mask, laughs wickedly and reveals itself to be something much darker and more surreal. By the time Tim and Daniel supply a joint to Cher, it’s pretty clear all bets are off, narrative-wise. . .it’s thrilling to realize that Childress is — how to put it? — capable of anything.
– Chelsea Cain, New York Times Book Review

Riding a wave of 1970s nostalgia, Childress crafts a humorous and occasionally explosive coming-of-age novel set in a bleak suburban landscape that mirrors the teen-age wasteland of the local high school.
– Columbia (S.C.) State-Record

Few things are more surreal than the confusing emotions of adolescence, and Daniel manages to be a keen observer of that stage of life, even as he is caught up in it.
– Ken Foster, Time Out New York

Two best friends come of age in small-town Minor, Miss., in this brisk but deceptively serious novel . . . Childress has really struck it on the sweet spot this time. The book unfolds in the year when Mississippi schools were mandated by law to integrate, and it deftly captures the lurch of two unequal societies trying to become one.
– John Freeman, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Every now and then there's a book that so comes to life the characters stay in your memory like people with whom you've laughed and cried, loved and grown so that you recall them vividly long after the book is read. Mark Childress . . . has created just such a cast in his latest novel, “One Mississippi” . . . shocking, thought-provoking . . . Childress captures the angst and hormonal horrors of the teenage years and intersperses it with humour and sharp, vivid observations of that unique place and time in history.
– The Now Newspaper, British Columbia

Childress sways his cleverly written story between laugh out loud moments and touches of true heartbreak . . . through (Daniel’s) his eyes, we capture the turmoil and heartache of a year in the life of one Mississippi town.
– The Advertiser, Lafayette, La.

A hilarious and intense look at a young boy coming of age in the 1970s South. It has been eight years since Childress published his last novel . . . that time has afforded him the opportunity to generate his best work to date. "One Mississippi" is funny, sincere and insightful as it reminds us that the joy and pain of youth are repeated with every generation.
– Mobile Press-Register

In "One Mississippi," Mark Childress stays true to the absurdly funny style he has become known for since his highly acclaimed "Crazy in Alabama."
– The Mississippi Press, Pascagoula, Ms.

Nobody does hilarious and horrifying in the same book better than Mark Childress. This (is an) irreverent, heartbreaking, funny, touching coming-of-age story. Readers won't be able to
help getting swept up in (Daniel’s) emotional life and all it entails.
– Sarah E. White, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Childress' characters shine with color, detail and realistic dialogue. Musgrove's family in particular is artfully limned as disturbed and desperate. Musgrove attempts to put the "fun" in "dysfunctional" until the house literally explodes from domestic violence. If school is scary, there's no refuge in the family circle. Childress . . . sees high school as the adult world writ large. And, as in the adult world, the ending is a surprise that leaves us wanting more.
– Elizabeth Ball, Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier

What Mark Childress does with great assurance (something poor Daniel Musgrove needs in spades) is combine seemingly disparate elements into a wholly satisfying, ultimately moving novel that ranks with his best. “One Mississippi” is at once a novel of initiation, a contemplation of racism and a profoundly funny and, finally, deeply unsettling commentary on human frailty. That all of these strands can be woven together so seamlessly into one book proves one more time that Mark Childress is one of our irrefutable Southern treasures.
– Stephen Whitton, Anniston Star

Childress expertly chronicles family and small town Southern lives (and) juggles complex issues, those that never seem to have clear answers, issues of religion, race, sexuality, violence and mental illness. A bit of a warning: do not pick up this book expecting to chuckle your way through it. Yes, you will laugh at the sheer humanity of the characters, the recognizable settings and the true-to-life situations. But you will more often find yourself . . . wincing, wanting to turn away, yet turning pages instead.
– Ben Holcombe, Macon (Ga.) Magazine

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