Aug. 6, 2003
It is at a Methodist youth retreat in July 1916 that Finus Bates, feeling the urgent call of nature, slips away from the campsite to the leafy cover of an obliging buttonbush.
No sooner has young Finus completed his business than he discovers he is no longer alone Birdie Wells and her friend, Avis Crossweatherly, have walked into the clearing in front of him.
Birdie, soaking wet from having slipped and fallen into the Chunky River, strips away her garments as Finus sits silently watching, transfixed by her loveliness.
Suddenly, the naked Birdie springs into a cartwheel, spreading her arms wide and laughing out loud in unselfconscious delight. That is the moment Finus Bates falls in love with Birdie Wells.
In his book, "The Heaven of Mercury," Brad Watson explores the romance between Bates and Wells over an 80-year period.
Meridianites will hear echoes of their hometown in the fictional setting of Mercury.
Watson has just been notified that "The Heaven of Mercury" will receive the Southern Book Critics Circle Award in Fiction, to be presented at the Southern Book Festival in Nashville in October.
A native of Meridian, Watson is also a recipient of the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters for his acclaimed short story collection "Last Days of the Dog Men."
Watson said he wants people to think of his books as good story-telling.
Book: "The Heaven of Mercury"
How to order: Available in stores
Publisher: W.W. Norton &Company
The price: $14.95
Book Signing: Monday at 7 p.m. in Meridian at Books-A-Million, 1187 Bonita Lakes Circle.
If you are a Mississippi author and would like your book featured in this column. Send book and
background information to Penny Randall, The Meridian Star, P.O. Box 1591, Meridian, MS 39302; call: (601) 693-1551 or e-mail: email@example.com.