When it was published in 1997, the San Diego Union Tribune called Johnny Payne’s Kentuckiana “a grand low-life epic ... a touching, sometimes hilarious and oddly delicious wallow,” while Publishers Weekly found it “moving” and “darkly funny.” Set in Lexington in the 1960s and ’70s, the novel is a story within a story within a story, beginning with a real estate developer with a taste for Tolstoy. As narrator of the opening chapters, he tells us that he has dreamed up an imaginary family—Jean and Constance Miles and their five troubled children—and deposited them in a Lexington suburb on the southwest side of town as a sales promotion. But the dysfunctional Mileses prove much more powerful than their creator, and before long they’ve hijacked the narrative. One by one, in a series of vivid chapter-long monologues, they recount their experiences with alcoholism, drugs, domestic abuse, and mental illness. As the narrator struggles to regain control and the Mileses grow increasingly self-aware, Payne plays with the literary notion of “creating” characters while keeping the wild ride of the narrative itself rolling toward a surprising conclusion.
Card catalog entry from the Library of Congress
Blurbs from the book cover
Barnes & Noble review
Transcript of bookclub@ket program