Lewis, William Henry. I Got Somebody in Staunton Stories. New York: Amistad, 2005. 302 pages. $22.95.
William Henry Lewis raised in the U.S., now lives in New Providence Island, Bahamas where he teaches creative writing and literature at the College of the Bahamas. He was a finalist for the 2006 Pen Faulkner Award for I Got Somebody in Staunton. His previous work is a collection of stories, In the Arms of Our Elders (Carolina Wren, 1995), and his work has appeared in numerous publications, including The Best American Short Stories 1996.
I Got Somebody in Staunton a fiction collection of twelve stories, has been praised by Edward P. Jones, Nikki Giovanni and Dave Eggers to be one of the most esteemed literary events to take on contemporary America. Making a come back after ten years, William Henry Lewis returns to the literary scene with twelve magical tales of humanism.
His stories borderline reality while flirting with ones’ imagination toward fantasy. A common theme among the twelve stories is ghosts of the pasts of many of the main characters, and how the issues are dealt with. Lewis’ style of writing transports the reader into the time and space of the setting of each story from the sweaty highway of the roadtrip through Klan Land, to the flying dirt in the yard with the Potcakes running rampant in paradise.
The title story deals with a young Black professor taking a road trip through lynching territory in pursuit of a visit with his uncle. While traveling he meets a White woman at a bar who hitches a ride with him. The entire time they are riding, he realizes her long blonde hair is twisting into dreads. The opening story Shades tells the tale of a young boy who at fourteen years old meets his father for the first time when his mother points him out in a crowd of men at the Watertown Festival set in New York City.
From the tales of Potcakes (stray dogs) in the islands, to the last story in the book Rossonian Days which serves as a dedication to three great people in the authors’ life, I Got Somebody in Staunton is a collection of stories once read, will make you feel as though you traveled the road with the characters and the author as he penned his magic. Lewis has lyrically weaved his magic throughout the pages of this collection making his stories and characters come alive to the reader.
Though each of the twelve stories is inherently very different, Lewis has addressed a commonality in each story by bringing to the forefront those that would otherwise be neglected. Each story is very well developed and very entertaining. I really enjoyed the way he developed his characters and the way his stories unfolded. Lewis is a genius storyteller as his magic captures the readers attention from beginning to end quickly catapulting the reader through the collection of stories at a fast pace. I completed the book in one sitting. I look forward to his next collection as he is clearly one of the masters of the design of the short story.