By Roger Zotti
There’s never a moment in Jedah Mayberry’s striking novel, The Unheralded King of Preston Plains Middle (River Grove Books), when the reader isn’t aware of how much emotional insight and intelligence the author has put into his storyline and characters.
Jedah says that the novel “is about dislocation. It tells the story of an everyday family with their trials, tribulations and small triumphs. The Hopkins family suffers a collective loss disconnecting it from their goals, their surroundings and each other.” Its theme is “ambition. Without it we get nowhere in life.”
What Jedah would like readers to take away from it “is that there is hope after all—that the steps we take to right ourselves after a fall, to reclaim our spirit after a loss, are the things that define us, not the loss itself.”
In answer to The Resident’s question why he chose Preston and Norwich, as the book’s settings, Jedah, who grew up in Southeastern Connecticut, and “couldn’t be more proud,” says it was “to create a particular social dynamic, to use the subtle cultural divides that exist between Preston and Norwich.” Consider one of the main characters, Langston Hopkins: “Though apprehensive about the prospect of continuing to high school in Norwich, he finds that even people who look similar can have vastly different backgrounds, interests, and outlooks on the world.” In the character of classmate Tasha Davies, he “discovers those differences may be worth pursuing.”
In addition to Langston, another key character is his brother Trajan. In fact, after Langston’s devastating accident, the focus shifts to Trajan.
For me, Grandpa Tuke is the book’s most arresting character because he personifies wisdom gained through experience, and willingly shares it with Trajan. For instance, when Trajan asks him, “How do you know nature is a she?” he says, “Man is too concerned with himself to do all this, to fill the world with the birds and trees and fish….It takes a mother to understand….that life without something bigger than ourselves…is not a life worth living.” After Trajan asks him how he became so wise, Tuke responds, “I tried everything else first.”
The best advice Jedah ever received about writing is that perhaps he wasn’t a short story writer: “I set out with the belief that short stories were the way to break onto the literary scene. That said, Jedah’s advice to “anyone pursuing any art form” is to “set aside any perceived formulas and focus on whatever works best for you.”
Jedah’s book is available on amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.
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