Tragic Tale of Two Families Probes the Impact of Class and Violence
The Garden of Unfortunate Souls, by Eddie Mark
Loretta Ford and her pre-teen son, Shadrack, live in the fruit belt, a neighborhood that was once the home of Buffalo’s thriving middle class African American community but has long since been transformed by neglect and poverty into a shell of its former self. When the mayor’s son smashes his car into Loretta’s home one rainy night, events are set into motion that force her out of the world she has constructed for herself – a parochial world of fantasy, religion and control. The collision, both literal and figurative, with a powerful family turns the eccentric single mother’s world upside down and shows her just how powerless she is.
Mark, who is an award-winning writer of short stories, is an expert storyteller whose prose, subject matter, and characters are reminiscent of John Steinbeck. The Garden of Unfortunate Souls is an impressive debut whose characters are multi-layered and, above all real in the sense that they are neither heroes nor villains. Rather, they are heroes AND villains. Every protagonist here is guilty of abuse of some kind, yet Mark writes them with compassion and with a thoughtfulness that gently leads the reader to examine the root causes of the abuse and then to an examination of abuse and violence on a larger scale: the abuse of power, the violence of poverty and the pernicious effects of inequality.
About the Author
Eddie Mark is a writer, researcher, educator, and former city chess champion of Buffalo, New York. He is currently a doctoral candidate in Educational Administration at the University of Toronto. His prize-winning short stories have appeared in the Hart House Review and the anthology Bloodlines: Tales from the African Diaspora. The Garden of Unfortunate Souls is his first published novel.