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Fair Warning

Selection

Perhaps my fate was sealed when I sold my three-year-old sister. My father had taken me to a couple of cattle auctions, not minding that I was a girl—this was before Missy was born of course—and I’d loved the fast talk and the intensity of the whole thing. So the day of my seventh birthday party, where Missy did a song for everyone while I sat alone, my chin on my hand, and meditated behind my still uncut birthday cake, it seemed to me that here was a charming and beautiful little asset I had no further use for and that could be liquidated to good effect. The next day I gathered a passel of children from our gated community in Houston, kids with serious money, and I had Missy do a bit of her song once more, and I said, “Ladies and gentlemen, no greater or more complete perfection of animal beauty ever stood on two legs than the little girl who stands before you. She has prize-winning breeding and good teeth. She will neither hook, kick, strike nor bite you. She is the pride and joy and greatest treasure of the Dickerson family and she is now available to you. Who will start the bidding for this future blue ribbon winner? Who’ll offer fifty cents? Fifty cents. Who’ll give me fifty?” I saw nothing but blank stares before me. I’d gotten all these kids together but I still hadn’t quite gotten them into the spirit of the thing. So I looked one of these kids in the eye and I said, “You, Tony Speck. Aren’t your parents rich enough to give you an allowance of fifty cents?” He made a hard, scrunched-up face and he said, “A dollar.” And I was off. I finally sold her for six dollars and twenty-five cents to a quiet girl up the street whose daddy was in oil. She was an only child, a thing I made her feel sorry about when the bidding slowed down at five bucks.

Reviews

1992

2002

“Butler’s writing is meticulous and powerfully dramatic.”

Time Out

“The man’s literary genius is perhaps unequaled in scope… [Fair Warning] lasts in memory—and that is the kind of effect real literary fiction ought to have.”

— Jeff Guinn, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

“[Fair Warning] is as frank and sassy as its heroine. It’s also twice as funny and twice as perceptive as much of the fiction that women write for other women to read.”

— Amanda Heller, The Boston Globe

“Once again, [Butler’s] language is right on the money in this alternately witty and moving meditation on value and values… Butler plays with the usual stereotypes of romance but ultimately rejects them in favor of something much more satisfying and surprising.”

— Ron Charles, The Christian Science Monitor

“Engaging… fascinating… accompanied by the wealth of evocative detail one might expect from a recipient of the Pulitzer Prize… Rich and captivating.”

— Les Standiford, The Miami Herald

“Witty… entertaining… [Amy’s] melancholy lucidity is arresting and at times illuminating.”
— Richard Eder, The New York Times Book Review

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