Some books are written with words that are harsh and dark; others with phrases that are tender caresses. Terry Kay's THE KING WHO MADE PAPER FLOWERS is written with words and phrases that read like poetry. This is Kay at his storytelling best and when this magic he possesses is captured on paper it is cause for celebration.
From his masterful mind comes a story about the state of Georgia and the city of Savannah. In this place a man arrives on a Greyhound bus. His name is Arthur Benjamin and he brings with him hope. He doesn't know he is bringing it but it covers him like the dew on a Georgia summer morning. One of the first people he meets upon his arrival is Hamby Cahill, a street magician. Hamby's first trick is to lift Arthur's wallet, an act he immediately regrets but does not know how to rectify.
In spite of this, or perhaps because of it, Hamby invites Arthur to stay at "the Castle". The Castle is an abandoned warehouse that has been taken over by an elderly woman of limited means and limited sanity. She is referred to as Lady and the people who live there are her "guests". The number includes Carrie, Gerty, Leo and Hamby. To that group is added Arthur, who fits in easily and naturally.
Over the course of the book Arthur's involvement with the group from the Castle will be explored. He becomes a bit of a legend in the city as he goes about Savannah making pretty flowers from napkins and other paper material. He is a gentle man who manages to stay calm even after Lady is involved in a small accident as she is crossing one of the city streets.
This accident draws the attention of the mayor of the city and causes him to want to see Arthur and his friends removed from the Castle. He feels the homeless are a blight on the city and the castle is just a place to fester and feed the idle. It is up to Arthur to become the protector of his friends and the other less fortunate members of Savannah society who have landed on the streets.
It takes only a few pages for the reader to become involved in the story. As described by Kay the personalities of Hamby, Arthur and the other main characters immediately spring to life and move into our hearts. That is especially true of Arthur and Lady, two vulnerable people who enhance each other in subtle ways.
It is impossible to describe the depth and beauty of this story. You have to read it to feel it, and you have to feel it to appreciate it. With this book once again Terry Kay shows how he can capture the spirit of the South with all of its ugliness, beauty and spiritual melancholy. The South is a special place and this story could not have been set anywhere else and have the impact it does.
Terry Kay dedicated this book to Pat Conroy, one of the South's legendary writers. It is the perfect book to remind us of the talent we lost with Pat Conroy's death and the talent that remains with Terry Kay.
THE KING WHO MADE PAPER FLOWERS is published by Mercer University Press. It contains 300 pages and sells for $24.00.