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Strangers and Sojourners: Stories from the Lowcountry

Booklist *Starred Review*
"In every town and village, in every region and state, there are people with stories to tell, but in Coosawaw County, South Carolina, those stories are as steamy as the breeze blowing in from the Atlantic, as gentle as the tide that washes its shore. People with stories to tell also need an audience, and in this low-country hamlet, one appears in the person of Dr. Jake Reuben, a New York City Jew who stands out and, try as he might, is destined never to fit in. Through the stories of his patients and their families, his staff and the townspeople, Reuben is portrayed as a compassionate physician, a healer charged with helping those who cannot, and often will not, help themselves. Subtly interweaving the tale of each character, from a 114-year-old black woman to a cross-dressing outcast, Engel allows each to speak in his or her own distinctive voice, each of which she renders with pinpoint accuracy and astounding versatility. Their eccentricities notwithstanding, these are extraordinary characters, endowed by Engel with a sublime grace and humbling spirituality that is both penetrating and poignant."

Carol Haggas
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved.

Opening to "You've Got to Learn How to Read Things Right"

Since my baby got Jesus, you can't hardly talk to her. "Thank you, Jesus, Help me, Jesus," is about all that comes out when she opens her mouth. Evelyn'll barely speak to me now without beggin' me to confess my sins and be made whole--just because some preacher says I'm "consortin' with the Devil." I tell her the Devil has nothin' to do with it--I have my own talent.

I dont' say I'm better than anybody else. When Evelyn wanted to add "DO NOT COMPARE HER WITH ANY OTHER DIVINER" to my sign, I told her no. I'm no better or worse than anyone else. I am what God made me. I can give out lucky charms, lucky numbers, lucky days; change luck from bad to good; draw out snake poison with sweet spirits of niter; cure the loss of a man's nature; read crystals, cards, palms, bumps on the skull--whatever can be read. It's accordin' to what the customer wants. I do whatever they need. Except for roots. If somebody puts the root on you, sprinkles yellow powder around your house or messes with your food or throws a dead chicken in your yard, you have to go see Old Mary. I don't do roots.