Hug Dancing

By Shelby Hearon

Afterword by James Ward Lee

978-0-87565-331-0 Paperback
6 x 9. 244 pp.
Pub Date: 06/15/2006
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Shelby Hearon’s excellent twelfth novel opens, “And they lived happily ever after.” It ends, “Once upon a time.” The opening and closing lines echo many of the themes of the novel. The book opens with Cile Tate leaving her Presbyterian preacher husband to return to the early love of her life, Drew Williams. The fact that Cile and Drew are both married complicates things, and they have to bring four lives to endings and beginnings.

When Cile decides to leave Eben Tate, she is amazed when he announces her abandonment of him and their two daughters from his pulpit. She doesn’t even have a chance to tell the daughters in advance. All this makes Cile a fallen woman in the eyes of the church members and the citizens of Waco, the bastion of Baptist religion in Texas.

The title reflects one of the Baptist tenets that is so often satirized, that hug dancing is a prelude to fornication. Cile and Drew are hug dancing in a serious way. One of the ironies of the book is that Eben Tate “hug dances” with a member of his congregation almost immediately after Cile leaves.

Cile is a friend of Drew’s mother, Lila Beth, who introduces her to her socialite daughter-in-law, Mary Virginia, the mother of Drew’s two teenaged sons. It is through Lila Beth that Cile and Drew resume the love they knew as young people.

The novel begins almost at the end and then twists back and forth over the three months it takes for Cile and Drew, once teenaged hug dancers, to find a way to “live happily ever after.”

The book captures the life of Central Texas in the 1990s, Mary Virginia’s social world in Dallas, and the blackland farm north of Waco and east of the town of West, where the government is planning the supercollider, which of course was abandoned part way through.

Texas Tradition Series

Published by Texas Christian University Press