"Brief as it is, Sabbath Creek has more substance and emotional impact than many novels five times its length. Rarely does one find such strength in a piece of contemporary fiction, nor as much truth about certain conditions of the spirit. It is a story that holds one intriguingly entranced. A story I cannot consider anything less than a triumph."
—Fred Chappell, author of I Am One of You Forever
"Baseball fan that I am, I am fearful that many reviewers and potential readers will regard Sabbath Creek as one of those baseball novels, but it is no more a baseball novel than Malamud's The Natural. Or, for that matter, it is no more about baseball than The Old Man and the Sea is about fishing. Sabbath Creek is, like these two masterworks, nothing shy of an elegant work of fiction, and like all such works, is about the whole wide world."
"Like many great works of literature, Sabbath Creek is the story of a journey—a quest for meaning."
—Smoky Mountain News
"Here is the honest storytelling of Judson Mitcham's best narrative poems and of his novel, The Sweet Everlasting. Sabbath Creek is made newly distinctive by the immediacy of the characters' travails, their humanity, and the timelessness of the novel's main themes—the journey, the meeting of the mentor, the coming of age of Lewis Pope. The uniqueness of the story lies in the recasting of these classic literary roles."
—Judith Cofer, author of The Meaning of Consuelo
"Scattered clues situate Judson Mitcham’s slender second novel in the mid-1990’s, but Sabbath Creek is a transcendent coming-of-age story that feels unshackled to any particular time. Its sense of place, however, is pungently particular, infused with the surface languor and latent violence of the Deep South. . . . This spare, lovely novel, while generous in humor, is anchored by sorrow and interspersed with portents of tragedy. . . . Lewis observes everything with the alertness of someone who does not yet take common experiences, such as kissing and drunkenness, for granted; he never resorts to shorthand to convey them, but describes them with a scrupulous fidelity to his own perceptions."
—New York Times Book Review
"In Mitcham's masterfully drawn, emotionally rich gem of a second novel, 14-year-old Lewis Pope is caught in the middle of a dangerous family crisis. . . . Mitcham brings vividly to life the rural community of Sabbath Creek, and he handles the emotional and psychological complexities of this story with remarkable subtlety. He also has important things to say about the redemptive power of human kindness and friendship. A powerfully realized, deeply satisfying novel; enthusiastically recommended."
"Judson Mitcham’s fiction has a dark, brooding quality—a sort of sweet-natured melancholy—that makes it impossible to predict redemption or eternal damnation for his wonderfully flawed characters. . . . There are no throwaway passages in a novel by Judson Mitcham. Every scene matters, every character counts and every psychological insight is well-earned. And what is not said can be every bit as important as what is."
At the heart of the journey, and the novel itself, is Truman Stroud, the quick-witted, cantankerous owner of the crumbling Sabbath Creek Motor Court, where Lewis and his mother are stranded by car trouble. His budding friendship with the ninety-three-year-old black man is his only reprieve from the mysteries that haunt him. Despite his prickly personality and the considerable burden of his own personal tragedies, Stroud becomes the boy’s best hope for a father figure as he teaches Lewis the secrets of baseball and the secrets of life.
Sabbath Creek is more than a coming-of-age novel. And while Mitcham provides a nuanced look at the relationship between a white adolescent boy and a black old-timer, his second novel transcends the tired theme of race relations in the South. This compassionate, smart, powerful work of fiction touches the pulse of the human spirit. It travels from the ruined landscape of south Georgia and takes us all the way through the ruined landscape of a broken heart.
Read more about Judson Mitcham at the New Georgia Encyclopedia.
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