- Paperback: 420 pages
- Published: 3/4/14
- IBSN: 9781617751967
- e-IBSN: 9781617752094
- Genre: Fiction
A deeply engaging debut novel about a morality clash in an insular Chicago neighborhood.
One of Roxane Gay’s Top 10 Books of 2014
One of Booklist‘s Top 10 First Novels of 2014
One of the Chicago Reader‘s Favorite Books of 2014
A Women’s Book Group Discussion Selection, Women & Children First Bookstore
One of O, The Oprah Magazine’s Ten Books to Pick Up Now, April 2014
Shortlisted for the 2014 Great Lakes Great Reads Prize
Longlisted for The Morning News‘s 2015 Tournament of Books
One of Five Books to Read Now, Chicago Tribune/Printers Row
A Publishers Weekly Notable African-American Title
“In this vivid, suspenseful, funny, and compassionate novel of epiphanies, tragedies, and transformations, May drills down to our bedrock assumptions about ourselves, our values, and our communities. As sturdy as a Chicago bungalow and bursting with life, May’s debut is perfect for book clubs.”
—Booklist (starred review)
“In May’s vivid, suspenseful, funny, compassionate and epiphanic first novel, the decorous Mrs. Motley, a retired librarian, along with her close-knit, gossipy Chicago South Side community, dreads the return of the notorious Stew Pot Reeves.”
—Booklist, naming Bedrock Faith a Top 10 First Novel of 2014
“May’s expansive first novel reveals the complicated emotional economy that holds together a neighborhood in crisis . . . May’s vivid descriptions of the rhythms of life in the suburb . . . reveal vibrant lives in ordinary houses.”
“May slowly builds suspense as he persuasively unfolds the narrative in this work that reads like an Agatha Christie mystery. The characters, even those whose names are never mentioned, are versatile and relatable, and May’s descriptions embody a tapestry of words.”
“May ‘persuasively unfolds the narrative,’ and critics are buzzing.”
—Library Journal, naming Bedrock Faith a Best Debut for Spring
“A perceptive and entrancing meditation on friendship and family, love and forgiveness.”
“May paints a memorable portrait of a community confronting itself. . . . Recommended for fans of authors such as Valerie Wilson Wesley and would be an excellent candidate for book clubs.”
—Chicago Public Library (staff pick)
“The depth and the magnetism and the humor of Eric Charles May’s truly unforgettable characters makes this a neighborhood well worth visiting.”
—New York Journal of Books
“Bedrock Faith is a strong, engaging novel—full of warmth and charm and honesty.”
“Bedrock Faith is an entertaining and heartfelt novel, and it provides an important look at a side of Chicago that is under-represented in today’s literary fiction.”
—Chicago Center for Literature and Photography
“Bedrock Faith isn’t a short read, but it’s a rich one, and the characters are engaging.”
“Bedrock Faith, [May’s] debut, came out in March from Akashic Books . . . and judging from reviews calling May ‘a gem of a writer’ and comparing him to James Baldwin, he did a masterful job.”
—Newcity, Lit 50 2014: Who Really Books In Chicago
“The story is hilarious . . . and Eric’s performance brought it more to life than it already was.”
—Chicago Literati, Review of July CCLaP showcase featuring Eric Charles May
“Fast-paced . . . suspenseful and meditative in equal measure.”
“Mrs. Motley is a creation the likes of whom many authors only dream of achieving . . . It is a gifted author who can show us such three-dimensional characters and make them come to life.”
—KGB Bar Lit Magazine
“A compelling look at a tight-knit community battling a threat from within.”
—Chicago Social Magazine
“Eric Charles May and James Baldwin share more than skin color and writing passion. They are masters of the complicated operas that unfold in a particular place, of the complexities and frailties of mankind. Bedrock Faith is May’s first novel, and since approaching Baldwin is no idle feat, one only hopes he’ll write more.”
“Once I got started, I could not put [Bedrock Faith] down. I couldn’t wait to see what was coming next, which of the neighbors would get their comeuppance and who would emerge as the final victor, Stew Pot or the people of Parkland.”
—Read For Pleasure
“Eric Charles May is a gem of a writer.”
—I’ve Read This
“Eric Charles May’s first novel is delightful to read. There are a host of characters, each given the opportunity to tell their story, and there is plenty of action. Readers are welcomed into Parkland from the first page.”
—Reeling and Writhing and Fainting in Coils
“A wonderful urban novel full of vitality and pathos and grit. I dug the ever-living hell out of it.”
—Dennis Lehane, author of Live By Night
“Vividly told . . . It will make you shake your head, smile, laugh, wondering how are they going to work this out, as you’re moved along from one situation and one set of characters to the next.”
—John Schultz, author of The Tongues of Men
“In Bedrock Faith, Eric Charles May has created a world inhabited by unforgettable, believable characters—the fervid Stew Pot Reeves, the patient Mrs. Motley—who will linger in your heart long after you’ve finished their story. A bittersweet, timeless book.”
—Valerie Wilson Wesley, author of Dying in the Dark
“An impressive debut with unforgettable characters and an epic story line by an author who has appeared on the literary landscape fully formed.”
—Colin Channer, author of The Girl with the Golden Shoes
After fourteen years in prison, Gerald “Stew Pot” Reeves, age thirty-one, returns home to live with his mom in Parkland, a black middle-class neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. A frightening delinquent before being sent away (his infamies included butchering a neighbor’s cat, torching another neighbor’s garage, and terrorizing the locals with a scary pit bull named Hitler), his return sends Parkland residents into a religiously infused tailspin, which only increases when Stew Pot announces that he experienced a religious awakening in prison. Most neighbors are skeptical of this claim, with one notable exception: Mrs. Motley, a widowed retiree and the Reeves’s next-door neighbor who loans Stew Pot a Bible, which is seen by Stew Pot and many in the community as a friendly gesture.
With uncompromising fervor (and with a new pit bull named John the Baptist), Stew Pot appoints himself the moral judge of Parkland. He discovers that a woman on his block is a lesbian and outs her to the neighborhood, the first battle in an escalating war of wills with immediate neighbors: after a mild threat from the block club president, Stew Pot reveals a secret that leaves the president’s marriage in ruin; after catching a woman from across the street snooping around his backyard, Stew Pot commits an act of intimidation that leads directly to her death.
Stew Pot’s prison mentor, an African American albino named Brother Crown, is released from prison not long after and moves in with Stew Pot and his mom. His plan is to go on a revival tour, with Stew Pot as his assistant. One night, as Stew Pot, Mrs. Reeves, and Brother Crown are witnessing around the neighborhood, a teenager from the block attempts to burn down the Reeves home. He botches the job and instead sets fire to Mrs. Motley’s house. She is just barely rescued, but her house is a total loss and she moves in with a nearby family. Neighbors are sure Stew Pot is behind the fire. The retaliations against Stew Pot continue, sending him over an emotional ledge as his life spirals out of control with grave consequences. Through the unforgettable characters of Stew Pot and Mrs. Motley, the novel provides a reflection on God, the living and the dead, and the possibilities of finding love without reservation.
Eric Charles May was named one of 25 Writers to Watch by the Guild Literary Complex; read the announcement here.
Read an interview with Eric Charles May and Johnny Temple at the Columbia College Chicago website here; read an interview with Eric Charles May at Chicago Pride here; and read an interview with Eric Charles May at Late Night Library here.
Read a feature on Bedrock Faith and Eric Charles May at the Chicago Tribune/Printers Row Journal and the Chicago Sun-Times; read a feature on Eric Charles May’s visit to GWU’s One World—Same Dream at China Daily News here.
Read an excerpt from Bedrock Faith at The Nervous Breakdown.
Click here to read a Q&A with Eric Charles May at Christine Sneed’s blog.
Read a post written by Eric Charles May featuring a music playlist inspired by Bedrock Faith at Largehearted Boy.
Check out these photos from the July Chicago Center for Literature and Photography Showcase featuring Eric Charles May. Click here to listen to a podcast of the event, and click here to read Chicago Literati‘s review of the event.
Eric Charles May has been named the recipient of the Chicago Public Library’s 21st Century Award! Click here to read the announcement.
ERIC CHARLES MAY is an associate professor in the Fiction Writing at Columbia College Chicago. A Chicago native and former reporter for the Washington Post, his fiction has appeared in the magazines Fish Stories, F, and Criminal Class. In addition to his Post reporting, his nonfiction has appeared in Sport Literate, the Chicago Tribune, and the personal essay anthology Briefly Knocked Unconscious by a Low-Flying Duck. Bedrock Faith is his first novel. Visit his website: ericcharlesmay.com