Subtle humor and mostly pitch-perfect prose distinguish Atkins's compelling mix of mystery and romance, set in 1985 with flashbacks to the 1930s and '40s. Atkins smoothly weaves past into present as the action builds to a final poignant twist. Publishers Weekly
Raymond L. Atkins’s second book (after last year’s The Front Porch Prophet) is a casually clever, darkly humorous mystery that centers on the fiery death of a self-proclaimed witch in drowsy Sand Valley, Alabama. Many secrets are revealed, in no hurry whatsoever; solving the mystery is almost beside the point, anyway, when the cast of characters is this intriguing. The author, who lives in Rome, Georgia, has a firm but subtle grasp of the freakishly ordinary people and understated, often unintentional humor that make a small town tick. Atlanta Magazine
Like all great southern writers before him, Raymond Atkins knows how to spin a yarn. With trenchant wit and lucid, poetic prose, he weaves the homely with the divine, creating characters that glow with human life. Facades don’t last long in Sorrow Wood --- these people know each other whether they want to or not, and their interactions inevitably lead to the kind of conflict that bares souls. Under the skillful direction of a master storyteller, Wendell, Reva, Otter, Deadhand, Eunice and their kin, friends, and foes, weave a plot that holds the reader fast to the page. Melanie Sumner, The Ghost of Milagro Creek
In masterful fashion, Atkins seamlessly weaves spiritual poignancy with tender romance in order to create an engaging tale that offers tentative answers to some of the lingering questions we all find ourselves pondering from time to time: Why are we here? What lies beyond the grave? Have we ever been here before? Engrossing, entrancing – and with an ending sure to leave you wanting more – Sorrow Wood is more than just a garden variety love story. A thoroughly entertaining read. APEX Reviews
Raymond Atkins' second novel, Sorrow Wood, will make you laugh--until you cry. It's an old-fashioned love story loaded with down-home humor and salt-of-the-earth wisdom. Atkins has a great gift for fleshing out his characters and telling their stories, for writing with both humor and tenderness. He expresses well the horrors of wartime, as well as the simple pleasures of everyday life. Kathleen Lewis, Book Ideas
Atkins gives us a loving portrait of middle-aged love. His novel skips through time, telling us the story of how Reva and Wendell met during World War II, got married and created a life together over the next 40 years. It's the story not just of how people fall in love, but how people remain in love. Reva and Wendell are the solid center in a town filled with eccentrics. They rely on each other, trust each other, support each other and truly define the term partnership. What is important is the story of a great and enduring love. Atkins clearly loves his characters. You will, too. Michael Scott Cain, Rambles.net
Sorrow Wood is sure to please readers looking for a good old-fashioned page-turning thriller, replete with a grisly murder, plenty of twists, and a surprising and yet logical ending. But it’s more than that—at bottom this is a love story between the two most unlikely guardians of the law to come along in a long, long time: Reva Blackmon, local judge, and Wendell, her policeman husband—destined to be together, perhaps since the dawn of time. A story at once funny, sad, and profoundly hopeful. Man Martin, Days of the Endless Corvette, Paradise Dogs
Sorrow Wood is an excellent book. Anyone who lives in a southern small town or the rural south will be able to relate to some of the characters portrayed by Atkins. Susan Smith, Decatur News
Sorrow Wood is ultimately a story about the lasting strength of love. I would recommend this novel for purchase by any public library or academic library. Rebecca Tolley-Stokes, Tennessee Library Association
This is an unusual book. It purports to be a murder mystery, and there is a murder, a corpse, and a policeman who is on the trail of the killer. But the interest for me was not in ‘who done it,’ and I mean this as praise. Most pleasing of all in this book is the humor. I found it a realistic, satisfying, unsentimental and rather moving love story. Don Noble, Alabama Public Radio
Raymond L. Atkins’ strength is in his writing style, and his ability to create living, breathing individuals with just a few critical details. Even better, he does this in a humorous way. A scene from Wendell’s childhood, in which he abandons his abusive father at the bottom of a well isn’t a funny situation at all. But the way the story is told makes you laugh out loud. His characters are interesting and memorable. Sorrow Wood forces you to slow down to the pace of the characters. It isn’t a book to be rushed, but savored. Whenever I put the book down, the story lingered. When I picked the book up again, I'd easily fall back into the rhythm of the narration. It’s a great read, entertaining but poignant and touching as well. Susanna Hough, Reviewer
Much like in his first novel, The Front Porch Prophet, Georgia Author of the Year Raymond Atkins takes us to a small Southern town, this time in Alabama, that will be familiar to anyone that ever lived in a rural community. His characters are likewise like old friends and neighbors, people you will instantly recognize. This book takes many twists and turns along the way to a surprising and satisfying conclusion. Mr. Atkins has once again created a place that I didn't want to leave. Farris Yawn, North Georgia Living
Reva and Wendell are wonderfully drawn characters, as are the others who people this book, so real they could walk off the pages and join the reader for a cup of coffee. The narrative is rich with exquisite detail. Maryann Miller, Blogger News Network
Beautifully written with bouts of hilarity only a small-town native could truly appreciate (and perhaps relate to), Sorrow Wood is another ballpark home run for Atkins. T.C. Robson, The Bookshelf Reviews
This book is filled with hilarious and perhaps red-necked characters who will amuse you until the last page. You’ll laugh and cringe at the same time. This novel oozes with Southern charm and is both a love story and a mystery. Everything comes together so well with the rich literature and highly imaginative characters created by Raymond L. Atkins. A book most will adore if you love social satire and mystery. Jessica Roberts, Bookpleasures.com
Raymond L. Atkins has written a richly textured mystery, a complex blend of Southern Gothic, social satire, and page-turning whodunit. Reminiscent of Clyde Edgerton with its down-home characters, of James Wilcox with its uproarious humor, Sorrow Wood nonetheless has its own distinctive voice, and a more than distinctive charm. This is a novel destined to please many readers. Greg Johnson, Pagan Babies
SORROW WOOD is ribald, witty and moving. It is as much a mystery about murder as it is about love, life—and afterlife—as hilarious as it is thought provoking. Anthony Grooms, Bombingham, Trouble No More
Atkins’ flair for poetic prose is not only beautiful and enjoyable, but also clever and meaningful. Ken Anderson, Someone Bought the House on the Island, Sea Change
This is the story of two ordinary people who fall in love and marry. Yet as everyday as that sounds; their tale is very poignant reminiscent of Erich Segal’s Love Story. The story line takes place during WW II, the Korean Police Action, and up to 1995 when the homicide occurs. Fans will enjoy love through the ages on a par with the epics of Barbara Delinsky and Danielle Steele. Midwest Book Review
I really loved reading the stories of the two main characters. Much of the book takes place during the World War II era, with Wendell Blackmon serving in the Navy at the time. Raymond L. Atkins did a wonderful job of re-creating the feeling of duty many Americans felt at that time, as well as showing the sacrifice that many people made. There were also scenes from the Korean and Vietnam Wars in the book as we moved through the decades. As with his debut novel, Atkins has created a cast of colorful characters with his latest novel. I really enjoyed his choices of words and the overall love story found in the book. Rebecca Adler, The Inside Cover
Reva Blackmon is a reluctant probate judge in the small town of Sand Valley, Alabama. She lives in a rock castle with turrets and a moat thanks to Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal and walks on one leg thanks to a drunken railroad engineer on the Southern Pacific. She sings Wednesdays and Sundays in the choir at the Methodist Church and believes in reincarnation the rest of the time. Her husband, Wendell, is the love of her life, stretching back down the corridors of time.
Wendell Blackmon is the disgruntled policeman in this same small town. He rides herd on an unlikely collection of reprobates, rogues with names such as Deadhand Riley, Gilla Newman, Otter Price, and Blossom Hogan. Law enforcement in this venue consists of breaking up dog fights, investigating alien abductions, extinguishing truck fires, and spending endless hours riding the roads of Sand Valley. Unlike his wife, Wendell does not believe in reincarnation. Nor does he believe in Methodism, Buddhism, or Santa Claus. But he does believe in Reva, and that belief has been sufficient to his needs over their many years together.
But the routines of Sand Valley are about to change. A burned body has been discovered at a local farm named Sorrow Wood. The deceased is a promiscuous self-proclaimed witch with a checkered past. Wendell investigates the crime, and the list of suspects includes his deputy, the entire family of the richest man in town, and nearly everyone else who knew the departed. As the probe continues, a multitude of secrets are revealed, including one that reaches from the deep past all the way to the rock castle. Who was this woman who met her end at Sorrow Wood? Where did she come from? What were the mysterious circumstances surrounding her death, and what did her presence mean to Wendell, Reva, and the remainder of the inhabitants of Sand Valley?