The Birds of Opulence
From the critically acclaimed, award-winning author of Blackberries, Blackberries and Water Street comes an astonishing new novel. A lyrical exploration of love and loss, The Birds of Opulence centers on several generations of women in a bucolic southern black township as they live with and sometimes surrender to madness.
The Goode-Brown family, led by matriarch and pillar of the community Minnie Mae, is plagued by old secrets and embarrassment over mental illness and illegitimacy. Meanwhile, single mother Francine Clark is haunted by her dead, lightning-struck husband and forced to fight against both the moral judgment of the community and her own rebellious daughter, Mona. The residents of Opulence struggle with vexing relationships to the land, to one another, and to their own sexuality. As the members of the youngest generation watch their mothers and grandmothers pass away, they live with the fear of going mad themselves and must fight to survive.
Crystal Wilkinson offers up Opulence and its people in lush, poetic detail. It is a world of magic, conjuring, signs, and spells, but also of harsh realities that only love -- and love that's handed down -- can conquer. At once tragic and hopeful, this captivating novel is a story about another time, rendered for our own.
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About the AuthorCrystal Wilkinson is the author of Blackberries, Blackberries, winner of the Chaffin Award for Appalachian Literature, and Water Street, a finalist for both the UK's Orange Prize for Fiction and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. The winner of the 2008 Denny Plattner Award in Poetry from Appalachian Heritage magazine and the Sallie Bingham Award from the Kentucky Foundation for Women, she serves as Appalachian Writer-in-Residence at Berea College and teaches in the Spalding low residency MFA in Creative Writing Program.
"The writing is breathtaking -- lyrical and poetic without any pretension.... Wilkinson is working at the height of her powers." -- Lisa Williams, author of Gazelle in the House
"Lyrical and visionary, unconventional, and infused with beauty." -- Maurice Manning, author of The Common Man, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry
"Crystal Wilkinson's Opulence, Kentucky, is small geographically and in population, but the novel's concerns are large -- life, death, love, betrayal, despair, and hope. Wilkinson is a lyrical writer, and, once encountered in these pages, her characters and their stories linger in our memories long after the last page is turned. The Birds of Opulence is a novel to be read and reread." -- Ron Rash, author of Above the Waterfall
"Those birds.... They swoop down on and around Opulence, Kentucky, proffering a sweeping perspective of more than three decades that's both grand and intimate. Yes, they are all here, several generations of women -- Minnie Mae, Tookie, Lucy, Francine, Yolanda, and Mona -- and there are a few good men, too, each and every one of them indelible. Burnished with Wilkinson's stunning prose, The Birds of Opulence is golden and magnificent." -- Robin Lippincott, author of Blue Territory, and In the Meantime
"Wilkinson is a fine writer, depicting the characters in her book with a sure hand. This is a book to savor. I recommend it gladly." -- Me, You, and Books
"Praised for its lyrical expression, this book is so rich with wisdom, you just might want to read twice." -- Brit + Co
"Wilkinson's novel is a special gift to Kentuckians. It speaks to the love of family and the region, and delivers real life tragedies and joys with honest appraisal. It deserves a spot on the shelf with the masters, James Still, Harriette Arnow, and Wendell Berry." -- Louisville Review
"Wilkinson writes of the in-between moments when breath can become suffocation, and when sanity transforms into madness. Wilkinson also writes knowingly about the silences, confusions and half-understood ancestral legends that can exist inside people. This novel meditates on those tensions and confusions by exploring the inner lives of over half a dozen residents of the town of Opulence. The Birds of Opulence is a novel, where every yesterday converges and the reader is almost asked, aren't we all just looking for a little love before we die? A swift and beautiful novel." -- Leo Weekly
" The Birds of Opulence is a magical, lyrical novel by award-winning author Crystal Wilkinson." -- D.L. Hughley Show
"Wilkinson's writing is lyrical." -- Boston Globe
"It's a book so prismatic that it makes us inquire, long after it ends, about the special and specific processes of nature, both our biomes and human wildness.
The Birds of Opulence is categorically lyrical. On the surface, one can hear echoes of predecessors such as Zora Neale Hurston and Toni Morrison.
Thus, in The Birds of Opulence, Wilkinson recreates a nuclear family that is literally the beating heart of eco-feminism with all its squash patches and broken water in dirt." -- Rain Taxi Review of Books
"Today, Wilkinson is an important and lively force in literary circles. While both heartbreaking and hopeful, the book lingers on the mysterious force and importance of love, especially love handed down through the generations. In The Birds of Opulence, Crystal Wilkinson has told a story with a true Kentucky voice." -- Louisville Courier Journal
"Amid the thousands of novels published each year, the appearance of great ones with the power to last are as rare as hen's teeth. Thus, publication of The Birds of Opulence this spring is a signal occasion. It heralds the appearance of a masterful novel by Crystal Wilkinson [who] has written a moving and tragic multigenerational novel.... You definitely don't want to miss reading The Birds of Opulence." -- Richmond Register
"Mental illness, illegitimate children, friendship, memories, loss, and family ties have beenexplored in fiction before, but in Crystal Wilkinson's long awaited new book, all of these subjects come together in a way that is realistic but not tired, familiar but not predictable, and moving but not nostalgic. Wilkinson so capably and so effortlessly creates this vivid and genuine world that I'm tempted to pull one lush description after another so I can savor her prose a while longer." -- Amanda Kelley, JMWW blog
"This lush, lyrical prose is unsurprising from Wilkinson, a critically acclaimed poet and award-winning author. The sumptuous prose and keen insight into the complicated, shifting relationships of one generation to the next will surely bring Wilkinson further recognition for her talents." -- Now & Then
"Wilkinson is skillful at drawing the reader into the lives of the Goode-Brown women, Minnie Mae, Tookie, Lucy and Yolanda. The struggle of the Browns in coping with their families' shortcomings, albeit no fault of their own, is one reason this book is such a good read." -- The Southeastern Librarian