It is time for the annual graveyard working at Big Caney, Texas, and all the community it there--a fundamentalist preacher who's formed Christian Guard Dogs, Inc to preserve the true believers from the terrors of the contemporary world, two elderly sisters who have spent decades fighting each other over the hateful and necessary contours of their shared life, a brother and sister conniving to have their mother committed to an institution for seeing space travelers in the backyard, a Native-American gospel quartet, and others of like mind joined again to pay homage to the dearly departed.
All are living with the heavy hand of the past upon them, and their attitutdes and addictions, their obsessions and their struggles to persevere are chronicaled in this highly comic and deeply serious novel of love, hate, and family.
Selected Reviews of Graveyard Working
"A comic version of the southern Gothic genre may not be exactly reasonable, but Mr. Duff’s novel is grotesquely amusing. The tale starts with two elderly sisters, widow and spinster, still delicately clawing each other over long-ago rivalries, and expands to include their younger relatives (one man garrulously impassioned about septic tanks, another trying ineptly to raise Christian guard dogs to supplement his preacher’s salary), neighbors engaged in a slapstick hunting party, and eventually the whole district, converging for the annual cleanup of the cemetery. Old Sully, who is black, considers the lot of them daft, and he is right – but they do provide action and comedy if one is not too squeamish about the proprieties." --The Atlantic Monthly
"Duff’s novel is a worthy successor to Flannery O’Connor’s dark Southern grotesques. It tells us more about ourselves than we generally acknowledge and goes beyond our fierce independence to the darker truths." --The Baton Rouge Advocate Magazine
"Both humorous and tragic, a comic novel with depth, a novel in which there is an undercurrent of pathos. Duff manages to create his absurd characters (though they may be more representative of the real world than we might like to admit) by sustaining a consistent and convincing narrative. He has an uncanny talent for making an absurdity empathetic." --Cimarron Review
"Gerald Duff has written a novel that is true to life in its portrayal of the comic, tragic, and sexual aspects of the very human characters, living and dead, in Graveyard Working." --Nashville Tennessean
"Other reviewers call Graveyard Working 'a crackpot Southern novel with a darker edge of satire beneath its wit,' a 'novel which manages to be funny, tragic, grotesque and warmly human all at once,' and 'an intensely dark deep-sex novel you won’t forget soon.' I agree with all of them." --Tulsa World
"Gerald Duff, who grew up in Beaumont, Texas, knows the Big Thicket and writes wonderfully about it and its people in a book that is both funny and sad." --Amarillo News-Globe
"Gerald Duff’s novel explores the thorny issue of family in the deep southern backwoods of East Texas. Although his tone is bitterly sarcastic, Duff plays this depiction for sympathy as well, providing for a colorful examination of the more remote pastures in the southern mentality. Duff bastes his crackpot characters’ actions with a heavy dose of irony, but he never succumbs to the weakness many of his creations possess in rushing to judgment. He seems largely sympathetic to these backwoods dwellers striving to create conflicts among themselves." --Baltimore City Paper
"In his second novel, Texas-born award-winning poet Duff (Indian Giver) evokes the bleak surrealities of Larry McMurtry’s The Last Picture Show as he details the long-festering personal resentments and barren East Texas landscape that defines existence for elderly sisters Myrtle Shackleford and MayBelle Holt. The novel is funny, poignant and dark as it conveys the sad and tawdry lives of its eccentric characters." --Publishers Weekly
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