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Southern Cross the Dog by Bill Cheng

Sarah Broadhurst's view...

It is 1927 and the great flood of Mississippi has swept away whole towns and families. Robert Chatham has survived and we follow his story along with that of Dora and GD, three black children on harsh roads to even harsher adult lives wrought with poverty and oppression. At times bleak, always fascinating, we move around between the characters’ lives and the people they encounter.

If you like Bill Cheng you might also like to read books by Cormac Mccarthy, Tom Franklin and Philip Meyer.

Who is Sarah Broadhurst


Southern Cross the Dog by Bill Cheng

When the Great Flood of 1927 devastates Mississippi, eight-year-old Robert Chatham loses everything. Robert's adventures in the brooding swamplands - from hard labour to imprisonment to thwarted love - are full of courage, danger and heartbreak. This is story of how a small, hurt boy becomes a tough, young man: forced to choose between the lure of the future and the claims of his past. Set against one of the great American landscapes, Southern Cross the Dog is a mesmerizing and savagely beautiful novel. It marks the arrival of Bill Cheng as a writer of astonishing gifts.


'An incredibly daring and powerful debut. Not only does Bill Cheng set the language on fire in Southern Cross the Dog, but he creates a whole new territory of story-telling. One of the great literary enterprises is the ability to understand 'otherness,' and Cheng proves masterful in his ability to dwell in another era and place, while still remaining rooted in the landscape of the human heart. Cheng, almost literally, writes out of his skin'
Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin

'Fantastic and beautifully written, Southern Cross the Dog is an epic and bluesy throwdown in the Southern tradition.'
Nathan Englander, author of What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne

'Frank Cheng rises head and shoulders above the crowd by virtue of one very convincing fact: throughout Southern Cross the Dog the reader never has any idea what will happen next. Chatham's journey ... is as rollicking as the blues that one of its central protagonists, Eli, plays on his beat-up harmonium. It's a book full of flashes of thrilling darkness, surprising acts of kindness from bad people, and a social injustice that really crawls under your skin and angrily pulsates long after the novel is done. The overall effect is something like listening to a great lost country song, watching a Depression-era version of Spike Lee's When the Levees Broke documentary and reading the punchiest Cormac McCarthy novel there ever was, all at the same time.'

Tom Cox, Observer

'Cheng jumps between times and place with superb power and assurance, driving his epic story up to the second world war. His writing fizzes with invention; he characters jump right off the page.'

The Times

'This is an assured debut novel ... Robert's journey into manhood is a tour de force of descriptive power, a poetic invocation of the blues ... there are some unforgettable set pieces and the writing is sublime throughout.'

Mail on Sunday

'Fraught with poverty, pain and inhumanity, this tale of a young boy's passage from childhood to manhood in a harsh, segregated world is a Delta blues song in book form that has earned Cheng comparisons with the US novelist Cormac McCarthy. Metro For the first few pages of Bill Cheng's debut Southern Cross the Dog, you may feel disoriented. Good. That's the author's intention. You are not in the world of realist fiction, a landscape peopled with recognisable characters who are about to embark upon a familiar story. You are in the world of language and music... It is southern gothic without a break, because Robert hardly gets a day off from his struggle ...this is, after all, the deep south, in both history and literature the home of an unstable mix of trauma, dram and melodrama... Southern Cross the Dog is an experiment in submerging the reader in the rhythms and language of a period of US history and literature that has disappeared. He has made his book out of fascination and research. It is haunting and unrelenting.'


'Bill Cheng offers a grand and precious novel that splendidly extends our appreciation for an endlessly complex place in our American world, a place of colorful and unforgettable characters and landscapes both threatening and inviting. His work is lush and so very often poetic. Southern Cross the Dog has large and small echoes of masterful works, but we should not make any mistake-Cheng has carved out his own creative and accomplished path. His novel is a welcome and necessary addition to a society where good and compelling writing and stories are not as easy to find as some may think.'
Edward P. Jones, author of The Known World and All Aunt Hagar's Children

'Vividly evokes the backwoods balefulness and enchantment of such contesting cinematic variation on the genre as The Night of the Hunter and Beast of the Southern Wild.' Sunday Times

About the Author

Bill Cheng has received a B.A. in Creative Writing from Baruch College and is a graduate of Hunter College's MFA program. Born and raised in Queens, New York, he currently lives in Brooklyn with his wife. Southern Cross the Dog is his first novel and has received praise from National Book Award-winner Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin, Pulitzer prize-winner and author of The Known World, Edward P Jones, and Nathan Englander, author of What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank.

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Book Info

Publication date

28th August 2014


Bill Cheng

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Picador an imprint of Pan Macmillan


256 pages
Interest Age: From 18 years


Literary Fiction
eBook Favourites

Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)



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