Goliath is a small town in North Carolina, based on similar places in Caldwell and Burke counties; it has a classic main street with shops and homes, a church, and a couple of diners. Its main claim to fame is the Harding Furniture Factory, a world famous company devoted to the creation of artisan furniture. The Harding family has been a pillar of Goliath for going on a century. The current patriarch, head of the factory and center of the community, is Percy Harding–until a teenage boy with a penchant for arson finds him dead one October morning, crushed on the railroad tracks.
Percy Harding’s death is the beginning of Goliath’s demise, and as the town slowly crumbles, we witness its destruction one person at a time. There is Rosamond Rogers, Percy Harding’s secretary. Abandoned by her philandering traveling salesman husband and uncaring daughter, Percy was the only bright spot in Rosamond’s life. Even though her daughter, Agnes, is back in town after inexplicably dropping out of college, the mother and daughter’s relationship remains strained. Agnes always knew she would leave Goliath, while Rosamond could never imagine being anywhere else. Clyde Winston, her neighbor and the town’s police chief, is on the edge of retirement. Having lost his wife a few years ago, and estranged from Ray, his preacher son, Clyde is cautiously drawn to Rosamond and she to him. But somehow every time they connect they are pushed apart, like the opposite sides of two magnets.
Meanwhile, the town’s teenage population is in uproar. Junior girls at the local high school form a group that writes morbid poetry on pink paper. They leave their compositions in lockers, the library, and under the guidance counselor’s door. Students take to wearing black, and there is talk of a secret suicide pact. Vincent Bailey, the teenager who found Percy Harding, becomes obsessed with the poetry group’s ringleader: a reckless girl named Cassie. Slowly, seemingly unrelated events build together until one day Vincent Bailey and his friends arrive at a single idea that will result in the final knell for Goliath.
In this debut novel, Susan Woodring explores what the death of a small town looks like, and how the end of one company can spell the end of an entire community.
Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.