Van Til Tool

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Monday, June 06, 2005

A Review of Todd Hardage's Twin Oaks

A Southern history/mystery/ghost story

A Review of Todd Hardage’s debut novel Twin Oaks

(Baltimore, MD: Publish America, 2003)

ISBN 1-59286-515-1 $ 21.95 271 pp


Forrest W. Schultz

One of the most frequently quoted, though not so frequently heeded, maxims is the famous warning given by Edmund Burke: “Evil triumphs when good men do nothing.” Unless the writer or speaker who quotes this maxim is a cynic, he usually does so in order to prod good men into action based upon the related maxim which promised that “Evil can be defeated if good men do something.”.

The two maxims are aptly depicted in the newly published Southern novel Twin Oaks by first-time author Todd Hardage, a lifelong Georgian who lives in Troup County, which is north of and contiguous to Harris County, where most of the story takes place. From 1964 through 1998 the good men of Harris County did nothing to find the murderer of Twin Oaks plantation owner James Goodroe nor to bring to justice his nephew Sam who lynches the farmhand Zeb Wortham and then rapes the widow Willa Mae and then evicts her and her children from their cottage. Later the people of Harris County elect Sam Goodroe as their sheriff, which provides him with even more opportunity to indulge in evil with impunity.

The turning point, when good men start doing something, arrives in 1998 when the young Atlanta suburbanite couple Bill & Lia Patton buy the beautiful Twin Oaks house to fulfill their desire for rural living. Prompted, aided, and protected by the ghosts of James Goodroe and Zeb Wortham, the Pattons begin an investigation into the murders. Their quest for truth and justice encourages more and more good people to join in until finally the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (The Georgia version of the FBI) becomes involved. As Sheriff Goodroe sees his control unravel he becomes increasingly enraged and his wickedness becomes ever more overt and irrational, ending in the violent confrontation with the Pattons which forms a key element in the story’s denouement. After the Pattons have completed their ghost-assigned task of unmasking Same Goodroe, the ghosts themselves, in the anticlimactic final chapter, execute James Goodroe’s murderer, whose identity is not revealed to the reader until then.

Twin Oaks provides fast-paced action by well-developed characters realistically situated in their geographic, social, and historical context. It is a Southern novel which neither glamorizes nor vilifies the South, but depicts it as containing both heroes and villains. Although revolving around the Pattons, the story’s most heroic person is Willa Mae Wortham, not only because of her determination to triumph over her circumstances by getting a college education for herself and her three children, but also by her willingness to undergo the traumatic experience of telling the investigators what happened on that awful day in 1964 in order that justice can finally be rendered.

Twin Oaks has a well designed jacket and high quality paper and typography but it was poorly edited with respect to misspelled words. Other than that, I highly recommend the book.

Forrest W. Schultz is a member of The Coweta Writers Group, where he met Todd Hardage.


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