Alabama author validates gift of storytelling in new novel

By Leslie Criss
Daily Journal

OK. Let's get the gushing over with first: I think Sonny Brewer is an amazing wordsmith. I've been an admirer since I discovered “Poet of Tolstoy Park” earlier this year. He can tell a good story and he can tell it well. The man can flat write.

I wrote an entire column about “Poet of Tolstory Park” after I'd finished it, saying it had become one of the top five best books of my lifetime, second only to Nelle Harper Lee's “To Kill A Mockingbird.”

Well, Brewer has penned and published his second novel, “A Sound Like Thunder.”

I'll admit, I was a bit reluctant to start the new book, wondering how it could possibly measure up to his first. I needn't have worried.

Perhaps one of the most amazing things about Brewer's novel is this cover quote from a reader: “Sonny Brewer holds the reader close with a memorable story set in what was a magical place to live.”

The quote's author? None other than Harper Lee. Talk about a literary coup.

Truth is, even if Harper Lee hadn't deemed “A Sound Like Thunder” a good read, I'd still have liked it.

Set in Brewer's own Fairhope, Ala., in the early 1940s, the novel follows the story of Capt. Dominus MacNee and his 16-year-old son Rove – named after the captain's Labrador retriever, now dead.

For those who fell hard for Henry James Stuart who was the poet of Tolstoy Park, you'll feel a warm buzz of familiarity when you meet several characters in “A Sound Like Thunder.”

And for anyone with the slightest heart or history connection to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, you'll recognize a character of the artsy kind who befriends Rove.

Rove's young life takes a dramatic turn with the death of his beloved grandmother, who'd given her grandson a copy of “Huckleberry Finn.” Perhaps her words to Rove, as much as Twain's story, proved inspirational – even life-saving – to Rove – “Boys sometimes run away, you know.”

So, taking leave for a time of his life as he knows it, Rove retreats to his boat and begins to navigate the rough waters between boyhood and manhood.

“A Sound of Thunder” is a tale of the fragile ties of family.

It's a tale of grace and redemption, of forgiveness and acceptance.

Certainly, it's a good story told well.