Thursday, March 26, 2015

Book Review, Guest Post, and Giveaway: Visiting the Sins by Melanie Denman

Book Synopsis:
Set in the Bible Belt of Deep East Texas, Visiting the Sins is a darkly funny story about mothers and daughters, naked ambition, elusive redemption, and all the torment it's possible to inflict in the name of family.

Down through the decades, the lofty social aspirations of the feisty but perennially dissatisfied Wheeler women -- Pokey, the love-starved, pistol-packing matriarch; Rebanelle, the frosty former beauty queen turned church organist; and Curtis Jean, the backsliding gospel singer -- are exceeded only by their unfortunate taste in men and a seemingly boundless capacity for holding grudges. A legacy of feuding and scandal lurches from one generation to the next with tragic consequences that threaten to destroy everything the Wheeler women have sacrificed their souls to build.

Guest Post:
Writing a Southern Novel
by Melanie Denman

My mother named me (aspirationally) after the kind and gentle “Melanie” in Gone With the Wind, so maybe it was inevitable that I would grow up to write a Southern story. Unfortunately, there were no hoop skirts or mansions in my family tree. I come from a long line of traveling preachers, fiddle-players, gamblers, and bootleggers. Scoundrels, most of them, so my tongue trips up a little bit when I say that my novel is “Southern Literature.” I just tell stories.

But how do you go about telling a bonafide Southern story, as opposed to a regular story that just happens to take place in the South? There are volumes written on this by academics, but let me offer a simple answer. A true Southern story is something that could only have happened in the South. Of course the South is a large and diverse region, but the plot and the characters spring, organically, from the place. They are born of its violent history, its extreme weather, its tragic wounds.

Take Ignatius J. Reilly, the protagonist in A Confederacy of Dunces. He simply could not have existed in Omaha or Boston. He was a product of New Orleans, its rituals, its quirky character. On the other hand, the stolid Olive in Olive Kitteridge could have lived in New Orleans or Atlanta, but neither her character nor her conflicts sprang from the unique culture of the South. Her story might have happened in the South, but it would not have been a Southern story.

No environment outside of East Texas could have ever produced Pokey, the pistol-packing matriarch in my novel, Visiting the Sins. She was born to a feisty, contentious clan with a long history of rebelling against authority. Their independent spirit and distrust of the government led them to the hostile, isolated forests where they settled. Their hellfire-and-brimstone Baptist faith bound them together. This unique culture gave rise to the family feuds that launched Pokey on her path of ambition and scandal. The story of Pokey’s family is the story of that place. Like most Southern stories, it is a mass of contradictions. It weaves strands of tragedy with humor, religion with racism, violence with gentility.

I’ve come to believe that Southern stories aren’t created, exactly. They are all there already, buried in the rubble and the mud. The storyteller just finds out where they’re hiding, and she digs them up and sets them free.

My Review:

I grew up in the South and I love books, so naturally I love Southern fiction.  Melanie Denman's Visiting the Sins is a delightfully Southern novel.

This multi-generational story is told from the perspective of different women in the family.  You will meet family matriarch, Pokey, who has a salty tongue and a fierce way of living life.   You will also meet her daughter, Rebanelle, a former beauty queen, and Rebanelle's daughter, Curtis Jean.  The lives of these women intertwine through Visiting the Sins.

There is some Southern Gothic drama in this novel, but there is plenty of humor, too.  Some of the humor comes from Pokey.  Her language and storytelling was funny but crude, and as a result, this book would be best suited for mature audiences.

The storytelling in this book is lively and the characterization is a treat.  Each character has her own voice, and the voices are distinct and interesting.  The varied voices add a lot to the storytelling, giving the book a comfortable feel, like women sitting around a kitchen table drinking sweet tea and sharing their stories.

Author's Bio:

Melanie Denman is a native of Nacogdoches, Texas and a graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University. An eighth-generation Texan, and a former banker and cattle rancher, she currently lives with her family in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she is working on a second novel.
Connect with Melanie: Website ~ Facebook
Where to buy the book:

For those scheduled to do a giveaway (or who now wish to host one)
​ ​
I have created a Rafflecopter giveaway.

​Prize: ​One of 15 copies of Visiting the Sins (Open USA & Canada) and Amazon Gift Cards 3 X $10, 2 X $15, 1 X $20 (Open internationally). Ends April 25.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received a copy of this book from iRead Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.


amweeks said...

I'd love to win this book because I love 'family' stories, especially about women! With my own teen daughter, family dynamics in books always interest me!

traveler said...

This book sounds captivating and beautiful. Reading about relationships and multi-generational novels are my favorite. Thanks for this great feature and giveaway. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

karin said...

because this book sounds intriguing and I love the family concept

Berkeley Hapa said...

I love to read about multi-generational women's families.