The Bystanders–Coming Spring 2023

The real Dew Drop Inn from the story, “Road Trip”

In The Bystanders, debut writer Dawn Major writes with subtlety, compassion, and understanding about a time and place in the world that many authors have tackled but few have mastered. This interconnected collection of short stories from the heartland is one of those rare works that is able to capture remembrances, and to remind us all why those moments are worth remembering.

Major is an insightful and funny storyteller whose characters become amusingly alive with their dialogue and quirks as they walk straight off the pages and into our hearts, all while teaching us to accept life and live it as best we can. There is nothing better than a simple story told well, and this book certainly falls into that category. The Bystanders will stay with you long after the final page has been turned. It seems that when Dawn Major puts pen to paper—to quote Arthur Miller—attention must be paid.

Raymond L. Atkins—Set List, Sweetwater Blues

Dawn Major’s, THE BYSTANDERS (Moonshine Cove Publishing, 2023), weaves together small-town eccentricities and characters beginning with the invasion of the Samples family to Lawrenceton, Missouri. Townie, Eddy Bauman, and newcomer, Shannon Lamb-Samples, come of age in the 1980s when big hair is big and Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” blasts over the airwaves, but they couldn’t be more different. The real town of Lawrenceton and the surrounding area were part of the Louisiana Purchase, and centuries later, the old-timers still speak Paw Paw French and time-honored traditions run deep.

Though some say small towns are big families, Lawrenceton doesn’t want anything to do with the black sheep of the family. Shannon with her “Girls Just Want to Fun” attitude and fashion, her fortune-telling, Pagan mother, Wendy Samples, along with her hard-partying and abusive stepfather, Dale Samples, are outliers from Los Angeles. Shannon might as well have landed on Mars when Wendy and Dale decide they need a do-over in the countryside. Though Shannon is none too pleased, Eddy is enthralled by her Valley Girl ways. In a town of annual church picnics and beautiful landscapes, the Samples’s trailer on the outside of L-Town is an eyesore to the townsfolk and the family is quickly snubbed. Shannon and Wendy, who could really use some friends, must learn to rely upon themselves to claw their way out of poverty, abuse, and especially Dale.

In The Bystanders–a novel told through linked narratives–Major subtly explores the psychological phenomenon known as the Bystander Effect. As William S. Boroughs said: “There are no innocent bystanders…What are they doing there in the first place?” The characters often feel they are mere witnesses to what life throws at them, incapable of change. THE BYSTANDERSsometimes light and humorous, other times dark and tragic–pays homage to Americana and the rural people of the Northern Mississippi Delta region of Southeast Missouri.

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