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Authors: Dorothy Allison

Cavedweller

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Table of Contents
 
 
Critical Acclaim for
Cavedweller
“Spectacular ... Sensual ... Allison has a spare gospel-tinged lyricism that few can match.”
-Newsday
 
“Cissy, the cavedweller of the title, a character of mythic dimensions on the order of Toni Morrison’s Sula ... is something to behold.”
—Booklist
 
“In
Cavedweller,
Allison gives us the gritty charms and miseries of the place she comes from. She gives us, too, her understanding of pain and of the strong drive to be herself.”

San Francisco Chronicle
 
“A startling and powerful novel about a woman’s painful salvation and a young girl’s coming of age ... and one well worth the time and tears.”

New York Post
“Sensational.”—
Esquire
 
“Funny, heartbreaking ... A brilliant novel.”

Atlanta Journal-Constitution
 
“Cavedweller
spans the continent, covers a decade, and traces the lives of four women. It is about grief and sadness and characters crazy with desire to make sense of their lives. A brilliant novel.”

Virginia Pilot
 
“Powerful.”
—People
 
“One of the glories of Allison’s writing is that she refuses to be a good girl ... and that, after all, is what it’s all about.”

The Nation
 
DOROTHY ALLISON is the author of
Trash; The
Women
Who Hate Me; Skin: Talking About Sex, Class & Literature; Two or Three Things I Know for Sure;
and
Bastard Out of Carolina,
the acclaimed bestseller and a finalist for the National Book Award. She lives in northern California.
 
“Cavedweller
is about healing: deliverance through compromise, love, hope, forgiveness, reconciliation, and redemption. It is a testament to both the strength and frailty of the human spirit. Compassionate, honest, resonant, and poetic.”

Philadelphia Gay News
 
“A woman’s book through and through, filled with women’s suffering, women’s strength, women’s survival.”

The Advocate
 
“Voices weaving in and out, instruments going ... lickety-split,
[Cavedweller]
is more than a ballad—it’s a full-blown hoedown.”

Washington Post Book
World
 
“Successful in its depiction of the rhythms of everyday life in a small Southern town, Allison’s gift for dialogue is evident on every page.”

St. Louis Post-Dispatch
 
“Moving ... has a restless energy and interesting characters that will keep readers caring about the flawed but valiant women who manage to surmount their private griefs through stubborn determination.”

Publishers Weekly
 
“A fine writer ... passages of great beauty.”

Village Voice
 
“Impassioned prose ... Superbly salted dialogue ... An altogether wonderful second novel.”

Kirkus Reviews
 
“Allison has an infallible ear for powerful and painful emotion, and she shows that in her tale of four women who must walk through years of hurt to come together and form a family.”

Hartford Courant
 
“Eloquent ... The absolutely dead-on accuracy of the spoken language—the language of rented houses with peeling paint and hard-baked clay for front yards—and the rich rhythms are there.”

San Diego Union-Tribune
 
“A novel about healing ... You know these women are going to reach a better place, and happy to see them get there.”

Detroit News
Praise for Bastard Out of Carolina
“Simply stunning ... As close to flawless as any reader could ask for ... When I finished reading it, I wanted to blow a bugle to alert the public that a wonderful work of fiction by a major new talent has arrived on the scene. Please reserve a seat of honor at the high table of the art of fiction for Dorothy Allison. The special qualities of her style include a perfect ear for speech and its natural rhythms; an unassertive, cumulative lyricism; an intensely imagined and presented sensory world; and above all, a language for the direct articulation of deep and complex feelings.”

New York Times
 
“This book will resonate with you like a gospel choir.”
—Barbara Kingsolver
 
“Compulsively readable ... Allison can make an ordinary moment transcendent with her sensuous mix of kitchen-sink realism and down-home drawl.”

San Francisco Chronicle
 
“A hell of a writer—tough and loose, clear and compassionate.”

Village Voice
ALSO BY DOROTHY ALLISON
Trash
The Women Who Hate Me
Skin: Talking About Sex, Class & Literature
Bastard Out of Carolina
Two or Three Things I Know for Sure
PLUME
Published by Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A. •
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario,
Canada M4P 2Y3 (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) • Penguin Books
Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England • Penguin Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s
Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.) • Penguin Group
(Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division
of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.) • Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community
Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi - 110 017, India ● Penguin Books (NZ),
67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson
New Zealand Ltd.) ● Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue,
Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa
 
Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
 
Published by Plume, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Previously published in a Dutton edition.
First Plume Printing, May 1999
 
Copyright © Dorothy Allison, 1998
All rights reserved
REGISTERED TRADEMARK—MARCA REGISTRADA
 
The Library of Congress has catalogued the Dutton edition as follows:
Allison, Dorothy.
Cavedweller / Dorothy Allison.
p. cm.
eISBN : 978-1-101-12760-5
I. Title.
PS3551.L453C3 1998
813’.54—dc21 97-43860
 
 
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
 
PUBLISHER’S NOTE
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
 
The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.
 
BOOKS ARE AVAILABLE AT QUANTITY DISCOUNTS WHEN USED TO PROMOTE PRODUCTS OR SERVICES. FOR INFORMATION PLEASE WRITE TO PREMIUM MARKETING DIVISION, PENGUIN GROUP (USA) INC., 375 HUDSON STREET, NEW YORK, NEW YORK 10014.

http://us.penguingroup.com

For Wolf and Alix, my son and my beloved.
They have taught me all I know about healing the heart.
Chapter 1
D
eath changes everything.
It was a little after dawn on the twenty-first of March 1981 when Randall Pritchard torqued his Triumph Bonneville off the 101 interchange southeast of Silverlake. The seventeen-year-old girl behind him gave a terrified howl as she flew off the back of the motorcycle, cartwheeled twice, and slammed facedown on the pavement, breaking both wrists and four front teeth and going mercifully unconscious. Randall never made a sound. He simply followed the bike’s trajectory, over the railing toward the sunrise, his long hair shining in the pink-gold glow and his arms outstretched to meet the rusty spokes of the construction barrier at the base of the concrete pilings. A skinny, pockmarked teenager from Inglewood was crouched nearby, rummaging through a stolen backpack. He saw Randall hit the barrier, the dust and rock that rose in a cloud, the blood that soaked Randall’s blue cotton shirt.
“‘Delia,’ ” the boy told reporters later. “The man just whispered ‘Delia’ and died.”
 
 
D
elia Byrd had been up for an hour, walking back and forth in the tiny garden behind the house in Venice Beach, thinking about the local convenience store, where the liquor was overpriced but accessible twenty-four hours a day. Eyes on the sunrise, fists curled up to her midriff, she was singing to herself, stringing one lyric to another, pulling choruses from songs she had not sung onstage in five years and segueing into garbled versions of rock and roll and folk. She told her friend Rosemary that there was real magic in some of those old melodies, especially the lesser successes of groups like Peter, Paul and Mary and the Kingston Trio. Rosemary laughed at the notion of a mantra in the mundane, but Delia found that after a few dozen repetitions of “The MTA” she could unfocus her eyes and laugh at the desire to drink.

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