Trees figure quite intensely in the short stories of Christine Lincoln, compiled under the title SAP RISING. And these are not sappy stories, either. They are stories that absolutely reverberate with the passions and intense dreams and desires of the people who inhabit them. There is magic in nature and in the natural instincts of those who live within it, and Lincoln wastes not one superfluous word in executing the perfect storytelling that makes SAP RISING a quick and provocative read.
For those who know today's South, it is, in many places, completely similar to its historical antecedent --- hot, rural, backwoods in some parts, particularly urbane in others, intensely spiritual and housing a community of people who hope for something better. It was that way when Robert Johnson sang about it, and it's that way when Christine Lincoln writes about it. The lives of the African-Americans of her mind's creation balance on the precipice that bridges the life force that promotes positive upward mobility and the life force that, despite its best intentions, only manages to drag one downward into a spiral of guilt and misjudgment. Lincoln tries to surpass the negative possibilities by arming her characters with strengths far beyond those of mere mortals.
Many writers attempt to build worlds around their characters --- Faulkner was successful, so was Tolkein. But there are many who are not able to fully construct a three-dimensional planet in which their writings take shape. Christine Lincoln, in the tradition of so many other hardscrabble Southern writers, manages to do them one better. Her world is void of defining boundaries --- there is no name to her town, no one personality that overwhelms it. Instead, Boag and Wheat and Scoogie and their friends and families and neighbors exist inside a bubble that contains their flights of fancy and the things that help them find new ways of living.
A young boy hears stories from a beautiful stranger and he is transformed. A young abandoned child marks off her territory with a thin skein of invisibility. Not one character manages to hold on to his or her former self after exemplary circumstances introduce them to new ways of being. And so it goes --- they change and thus the world changes with them. Christine Lincoln keeps up with the movement of this personal globe with the kind of insight and wit that would make Truman Capote proud. SAP RISING introduces us to a rising star of contemporary fiction.
Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on September 11, 2001