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...).
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.
“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
– 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
– 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
– 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
– 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
– 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
– 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
– 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
– 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