Ben Stempton's Boy by Ron Yates
The year is 1972, and Randy Walls is fresh out of the foster care system. Haunted by memories of sexual abuse, he hitchhikes from Pittsburgh to rural Georgia in search of a blood relation. His quest for family is fulfilled in unexpected ways after he makes a deal with Ben Stempton, a grizzled old pulp-wooder. Through events that follow, Randy experiences culture shock, hard labor, funerals, friendship, extramarital sex, and jealousy.
When old man Stempton dies in a gruesome accident, Randy shoulders the burden of the man’s business for the sake of his wife and daughter. Episodes unfold, and Randy finds himself holding a baby. Little Benji’s mother is Ben Stempton’s daughter, Stacy. Unfortunately, she is married to Randy’s rival, an abusive redneck named Ty. More tragedy follows, resulting in Stacy’s emotional breakdown.
By this time Randy has grown close to his work partner Buster, a light-skinned black youth of uncertain parentage who anchors and guides him. These two plus Benji form an unlikely trio, struggling against vines from the past and present that are as constricting as kudzu—twisted stalks sprouting from society’s soil, Ben Stempton’s grave, and their own personal histories. Breaking free will require drastic measures and the formation of new bonds rooted in love.
Publication Date:October 8, 2019
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In this powerful and insightful novel about what constitutes a family, Ron Yates manages somehow to write with real heart even as he holds back none of the hard-bitten harshness of this world of rural Georgia in the 70s—a world he has filled with unforgettable characters. Ben Stempton’s Boy is the kind of book one can lose oneself to for days.
~Naeem Murr, author of The Perfect Man, winner of The Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best Book in Europe and South Asia 2007