While Linda is growing up in the small town of Boiling Springs, North Carolina, back in the 70s and 80s, she knows that she is different from everyone else, even the members of her own family. She “tastes” words. When she hears or speaks them, an association with a flavor bombards her, which she calls “incomings.”
Her best friend Kelly writes letters to her, first to launch their friendship, and then to connect with her afterwards, even though they live in the same neighborhood. The letter connection is one small bit of normalcy for Linda.
In this story, we follow the “confessions” of Linda, including her descriptions of daily life in this small town, her first crush on a boy named Wade, and a horrendous experience that will overshadow these years. When she finally “escapes” the town and goes to Yale, we continue in this vein, moving between the past and the present, until this section is complete.
Another very important and positive presence in Linda’s life is her great-uncle “Baby Harper.” Gradually she comes to rely on his presence and his adoration.
In the second section, revelations begin. We finally learn some of the reasons for Linda’s unique experiences, as well as why she has no memory of her first seven years.
While Bitter in the Mouth: A Novel was a very compelling story, there were parts of this novel that were slow; the first section even seemed confusing at times, with the tendency to leap around between past and present. The flow was not as smooth as I would have liked.
In the second section, however, the novel “redeemed itself” for me and finished with a blaze of triumphant renderings, which is why I gave this tale four stars.