Southport, A Story of Second Chances
Set in the historic Southport waterfront area of North Carolina, Southport is a journey through loss, betrayal and pain into redemption and second changes. It is the road to the kind of love that saves a life and to the joy that's still there even when all seems lost.
Published: Sep. 5, 2009
By Gwen Fowler, The Sun News, 1997
Edward Norvell's "Southport" would make a great beach read even if the story didn't take place in Horry and Brunswick residences, but the familiar settings make it more fun for Grand Strand readers.
In "Southport, A Story of Second Chances," Todd Field hitches a ride to Southport, N.C., to escape his abusive father. Soon he gets a job working on a fishing boat for a captain and he moves in with the captain and his wife. They soon become like parents to him.
Over the next few years he falls in love for the first time and gets his heart broken. He falls in with a bad crowd and learns what matters in life. He discovers the beauty of the Brunswick County, N.C., coast, traveling the Cape Fear to Oak Island, N.C., and Bald Head, N.C.
In short, the book is a coming-of-age novel that follows Todd from 1975 until 1990 when he's captain of his own boat, married and the father of two.
It's obvious Norvell knows the area he's writing about, and that's because his family has owned property along the Grand Strand since the 1950s. His grandparents had a home near the old Ocean Forest Hotel, and his parents had one in the Ocean Drive section of North Myrtle Beach. Norvell spent most of his summers on the coast during the 1970s and 1980s.
By Elizabeth Cook, Salisbury Post, June 22, 1997
If you think of Ed Norvell as the quiet lawyer on South Fulton Street, his first published novel, "Southport," will surprise you.
It's a frank look at growing up in the South in the '60s and '70s. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered. Blacks and whites had to be forced to attend the same schools. The Vietnam War raged on TV each night. And the AIDS virus had not yet reared its ugly head.
Many young people withdrew to a life of sex and drugs, and that includes the main character of "Southport," Todd Field.
"Soon she was moving her hands all over me, unbuttoning my shirt, and running her fingers across my chest and back," the first-person narrative relate. "The sweet smell of flowers and the sounds of the night mixed with the drink and conversation to create an intoxicating brew."
Ed! I've never sat across the Rotary Club table from someone who's written about stuff like that before.
But then, you don't encounter too many published novelsits in Salisbury.
If you pick up a copy of "Southport: A Story of Second Chances," you'll be swept up quickly in Todd's search for something and someone to believe in.
Coastwatch, Autumn 1997
When Todd Field runs away from his family's Duplin County tobacco farm in 1975, he heads for the coast and lands in Southport. Soon after arriving, he is hired as a mate in a charter fishing boat, beginning a life of self-discovery and adventure at sea. The reader is taken along on fishing expeditions and seashore walks, through shipwrecks and hurricanes, and into the nightlife of the Carolina coast. Through it all, Norvell provides often magical descriptions of the coastal landscape, particularly of a moonlit turtle hatching on Bald Head Island.
Todd tells his story in a simple and honest voice and is a likable character who transforms from a teenager adrift to a man solidly grounded. Early in life, he must deal not only with the lasting damage of abuse but also with the enormous task of making a way for himself with few resources. He is offered many second chances for love and respect—from others and himself. But it isn't until he faces a personal crisis after starting a family that Todd, in his 30s, fully understands the virtue of a second chance.
By Buck Paysour, Greensboro News & Record, May 17, 1998
Ed Norvell's novel, "Southport," reminds me of a limited-edition print I can see as I write this review.
The original watercolor of the print was painted by High Point's Larry Benner and is entitled "Southport at 5:30 a.m." It depicts the waterfront at Southport, a charming North Carolina fishing village. But the painting and the novel share more than a name.
Both create a mood. In the painting, the rustic Southport waterfront rises out of early morning mists, a scene that is at once both beautiful and foreboding. When you look at Benner's painting, it is as if you are actually standing in Southport at dawn.
Something similar happens when you read parts of Norvell's novel. You feel you are walking Southport's street, that you are visiting the town's homes and that you are talking to its residents.
Or when you read other pages, you fantasize that you have boarded a boat to visit nearby Bald Head Island or to fish the sheltered waters of the Cape Fear River or trawl for shrimp in the vast Atlantic Ocean off the town.
Set in the '60's and '70's, "Southport" is written from the viewpoint of Todd Field who flees from his native Duplin County in inland eastern North Carolina to Southport to escape a drunken and abusive father. In Southport, Todd is informally adopted by the captain of a sports-fishing charter boat and the fisherman's wife. The captain gives Todd a job on the boat.