Words in Praise of “Butter in a Jar: Days in the Life of Iola Thomas”

I want to share with you comments on Butter in a Jar: Days in the Life of Iola Thomas. Butter-In-a-Jar-Cover-658x1024

Jerred Metz’s narrative of an African-American newlywed and business genius making her way through the trickster-laden world of early 20th century Georgia addresses the subtle dangers of that ‘almost slavery’ era with delightful ironic humor. Metz’s sense of vernacular diction and rhythm is masterful: a plain-speak so convincing you can’t tell where the irony begins or ends: you just understand it’s necessary for the survival of this admirably gutsy protagonist and her marriage, a sort of linguistic underground railroad to her happiness, delightfully sneaky and hilariously true. Iola is a timeless heroine, yet also very much of her time, and so authentically Southern you can practically taste the moonshine burning down your throat, the watermelon juices dripping from your chin. In this highly entertaining narrative sequence, you can hear the music of Iola’s voice as clearly as a store-bell, but you still long to hear the whole thing spoken by Iola herself: to meet her in person. Iola’s truths are hidden from the characters who would exploit and cheat her, but offered in glorious confessional technicolor for the reader’s pleasure and enlightenment, and the resulting dramatic irony is delicious. There’s little figuration here to stand in the way of the protagonist’s voice, which carries each poem, and drips with delicious detail like fat from one of Iola’s barbeque hogs. As Iola says: ‘You talk about something good!’

These are the comments of a poet who teaches creative writing at the University of South Carolina, Nicola Waldron. If I hadn’t written the book, but read these comments I would want to read it. You can, too. Available from Amazon. I also have copies I would be happy to sign and send to you.

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