A profoundly raw and gripping read (The Baltimore Sun), Olympia Vernon's fearless and wildly original debut novel explodes on the first page and sustains a tightrope intensity until the last. Eden is a lyrical tale about a young black girl in the Deep South who comes to confront the realities of sex, race, disease, and mortality. When fourteen-year-old Maddy Dangerfield draws a naked woman on the pages of Genesis in fire-engine-red lipstick during Sunday school, the rural black community of Pyke County, Mississippi, is scandalized. Her mother, mortified by the small-town gossip and determined to teach Maddy the perils of her youthful intelligence, forces her to spend weekends from then on caring for her estranged Aunt Pip, an outcast who lives on the wrong side of town and is dying of cancer. The lessons Maddy learns are ones that could not be taught in any church. In lush, vivid brushstrokes, Olympia Vernon conjures a world that is both intoxicating and cruel, and illuminates the bittersweet transformation of the young girl who must bear the burden and blessing of its secrets too soon. Eden is a haunting, memorable novel propelled by the poetry and power of a voice that is complex, lyrical, and utterly true.
"An empowering coming-of-age story based on acquiring the knowledge that all choices are going to cost you something....Vernon's writing is sensual and tactile....What she does best is delve behind the scenes of a racially charged environment. She shows how the real effects of racism take hold behind closed doors and how racial oppression is intimately linked to sexuality, power, and self-love. Vernon leads the reader into the most intimate places unflinchingly and without apology."