‘Each time we lay down together, I thought of pounding fetlocks, the flex of tendons, the press of horse shoe against my chest, the ring of purple flesh it would leave on my stomach, his galloping, galloping into me …
Each night, after, I filled the space we’d made with the whine and later the voice of the violin, my voice, coming quicker and quicker, my fingers finding the notes through his hair, quicker and quicker through my bow arm sweeping across the strings, down the flutes of muscle on his back. It came mellow and low then quicker and harder and pizzicato and striking each note, forcing it from the wood and into the still sycamores, pin oaks, maples. Always, the violin called between the spaces.’
In this stunning fictional début Kelly Sullivan explores of the inner life of Grace: mother, wife, and talented violinist. Finding release only in her music, Grace exists in a state of profound emotional paralysis, until the storm.
18 August 1969 – Hurricane Camille ravages all that lies in her path; at a party in Mississippi drunken revellers eagerly await her arrival. As they sway to the sound of a stereo hi-fi, outside ‘the trees whip by and the rain whips down’. Twenty-four people die inside the beachfront building when it’s razed ‘flatter than a winter bayou’.
Speeding over drifting sand, Grace, her husband and his newly acquired lover make a last-minute dash to safety. In the days that follow, Grace surveys the destruction wrought by the tempest. Like the wood of her beloved violin, her fractured ego risks crumpling under the pressure: ‘Too much moisture and you’re gonna warp her, but too little and you’ll have more cracks,’ the violin repairman had warned.
In Winter Bayou, Grace journeys through the past, from the heady rush of teenage love to a marriage ‘ripped apart too … shredded and pushed beyond our boundaries’ – her meditations forming a perfectly poised novella as lyrically tender as it is viscerally sensuous.
KELLY SULLIVAN, was born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in 1979. She graduated from Skidmore College (Saratoga Springs, New York) in 2002, and was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study in Ireland in 2002/2003. She lives in Dublin.