Old Dogs and Children

Reprint Edition Copyright 1998 by Robert Inman

Published by Little Brown & Co.

ISBN 0316419141

Read the First Chapter

When you top the rise over the River Bridge, the first thing you see is the Birdsong house down at the end of Claxton Avenue, three blocks away, where the street makes a right angle with Birdsong Boulevard. Read more

In the best tradition of Southern storytellling, Robert Inman has written a novel of warmth and spirit that rivals Home Fires Burning, his highly acclaimed first novel.

Old Dogs and Children introduces readers to the memorable Bright Birdsong, a strong-willed, compassionate Southern matriarch, and to the four generations of her family, a family that has been at the forefront of local social and political change for most of the twentieth century. When we first meet Bright, she is a sixty-eight-year-old widow whose life has become quiet -- perhaps too quiet -- routine, free from problems, but void of challenge. Her solitude, however, is suddenly interrupted by a series of crises: her son, the governor, is faced with losing an upcoming election as the result of a scandal; her daughter, Roseann, asks to leave her ten-year-old son with Bright for an extended visit, opening old wounds in the process; a windfall of fifty thousand dollars brings Bright's children into competition for the money; and the town's black leader and Bright's lifelong friend, Flavo Richardson, with whom she fought side by side during the civil rights battles of the 1960s, demands her help in a way that forces her to reflect on her life and to struggle with the consequences of the choices she has made.

Through flashbacks we meet the young Bright, the much-beloved daughter of the town's mayor and mill owner, Dorsey Bascombe, who imbues Bright with her strength and spirit. We see her as the young wife of the admired congressman Fitzhugh Birdsong, who feels the pull of Washington's power as strongly as Bright is connected with her hometown, and we observe how the conflict between these allegiances is passed on to the next generation.

As the novel weaves together the past and the present, exposing the heart of Bright's relationships and causes for regrets, Bright is awakened to the painful realization that she shoulders much of the burden for her life's story. But, when the town is rocked by a tragic accident that unleashes long-pent-up racial tensions, Bright is presented with a difficult, unique opportunity, to right old wrongs and to reconcile what she has become with who she wants to be.

Old Dogs and Children is a powerful, compelling novel that combines sweeping historical events with intimate personal drama. In this rich evocation of life in a small Southern town, Inman has succeeded in creating a fresh, original work filled with humor, poignancy, and a memorable array of exquisitely drawn characters.

"Pretty much irresistible....Inman's sense of place is palpable; the people come off the page and slap you....Old Dogs and Children confirms that Inman is a writer of ardent and prolific imagination." -Pat Dowell, Washington Post Book World

"Unusually charming...frequently funny, wise about small-town life, its courtesies and contradictions....The book does have brilliant moments." -Donald McCaig, Los Angeles Times Book Review

"A warm and satisfying novel....A sure-handed evocation of the small-town South." -Nancy Pate, Orlando Sentinel