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Big Cactus by Sylvia Wilkinson

ISBN: 978-0-9911211-2-0
Publication Date: December, 2014

Price: $24.95

Pages: 230

For information about ordering by credit card or check click here


Sixteen-year-old Benny Foushee, deemed by his father as going-nowhere-fast, embarks on a trip from North Carolina across the United States with his 84 year old Aunt Lucy, his dog Polar and his 1965 GMC pickup. Benny’s quest, a challenge both overwhelming but irresistible, is to deliver Aunt Lucy to the big cactus, the giant saguaro in Arizona that she had dreamed of seeing since her own daddy put images of the American West into her teenage brain. Benny’s roadway adventures with Aunt Lucy and her on-again, off-again mind, become intensified when he rescues a beautiful young runaway heiress who calls herself Tennessee, stranded alone beside the road with her father’s broken Porsche. The foursome, stuffed in the cab of Benny’s old pickup, push onward to the cactus: Aunt Lucy with hopes to bring home a story to overrule her braggart brother, Tendall; and Benny, smitten with first love, fearful he cannot bring home alive the old woman he left with.

Read an excerpt now: Big Cactus or watch Sylvia read from her novel during a recent visit to the University of Colorado Libraries.



"A name from the past: Sylvia Wilkinson’s forthcoming novel, Big Cactus (Owl Canyon Press, $24.95 hardcover) with rave blurbs from Annie Dillard, Lee Smith, Clyde Edgerton and Fred Chappell. A Durham native, Wilkinson is the author of such classics as “A Killing Frost,” “Cale” and “Bone of My Bones.” This one’s about a 16-year-old’s mission to lead his 84-year-old Aunt Lucy on a road trip from North Carolina to see the giant saguaro cactus in Arizona." Read more here.

Dannye Romine Powell, The Charlotte Observer


Sylvia WilkinsonSylvia Wilkinson, formerly a Motorsports Correspondent for AUTOWEEK, currently covers auto racing for The World Book Encyclopedia. Among her grants were National Endowment for the Arts and Guggenheim Fellowships. BC (Before Computers) she did timing and scoring for Keke Rosberg, Bobby Rahal, Al Unser, Sr, Paul Newman, and others. She is the author of many books, including The Stainless Steel Carrot: An Auto Racing Odyssey, and the novels A Killing Frost, Cale and Bone of My Bones. Big Cactus is her 7th novel.

Wilkinson held teaching positions at the University of North Carolina, William & Mary, Hollins, Sweet Briar, Washington University and the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee and is a teaching scholar with The National Faculty.

Big Cactus will be available from Follett Library Services, YBP, Coutts, Brodart, Baker & Taylor, and Ingram Book Distributors. You can also place a pre-publication order by sending a check or money order for $27.95 to:

Owl Canyon Press, 621 Pleasant Street, Boulder, CO 80302






















































































Praise for


"While reading Sylvia Wilkinson’s Big Cactus, I laughed ‘til I cried and cried ‘til I laughed. It’s that good!”

─Annie Dillard, Pulitzer Prize winning author of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, and author of The Writing Life, and Teaching a Stone to Talk


Benny's and Aunt Lucy's voices in The Big Cactus are the soul of this story, a story as American as the landscape they pass through to get the old woman to the Big Cactus. From North Carolina to Arizona, like Huck and Jim on the river, they learn about themselves. Benny learns what he wants to become and Aunt Lucy, what her life in one place has amounted to. They both discover what they love and why, revelations that carry the reader along with them. Wilkinson's sense of the human heart is unerring.

─Jane Gentry, Poet Laureate of Kentucky and author of A Garden in Kentucky and Portrait of the Artist as a White Pig


"There's nothing like a good road trip novel---and Sylvia Wilkinson is the best driver around--- a wonderful, thoroughly engaging read!"

─Lee Smith, author of Guests on Earth, On Agate Hill, and The Last Girls


"When I finished reading Big Cactus, I wanted to go back to page one and start all over again. That's because I didn't want to part from these three amazing travelers: Benny Foushee, Aunt Lucy Lucy Williams, and Tennessee Gentry (to say nothing of the dog). Sylvia Wilkinson's ear for southern speech is pitch perfect, and she uses it to create a genuinely American Odyssey, wonderfully funny and tenderly wise."

R. H. W. Dillard, author of The First Man on the Sun, What is Owed the Dead, and The Greeting: New and Selected Poems

“You want a great book that does not slow down one minute? You want a deep reminder of the kind of love-of-language humor you find in Welty, O'Connor, Charles Portis, James Wilcox, and Shakespeare? And you want the best adventure cross-country east-west trip you've ever read? — starring tenth grade Benny, Aunt Lucy, a girl named Tennessee, and a dog? Then pick up and read BIG CACTUS by Sylvia Wilkinson. It's a hoot, a howl, a story with heart as deep and wide as the wild west.”

─Clyde Edgerton, author of The Bible Salesman, The Night Train, Walking Across Egypt, and The Floatplane Notebooks


“It’s a rollicking literary road trip which, like any great trip, is fun but also illuminating, full of poignant insights. Aunt Lucy in an indelible character, a person who might require her own glossary.”

─Leon Capetanos, whose films include Moscow on the Hudson, Down and Out in Beverly Hills, and Fletch Lives

"Sylvia Wilkinson has been too long away from us. Now, with BIG CACTUS, she returns to the novel with one of the best quester myths I ever read. Anyone who accompanies plucky Benny and his headstrong Aunt Lucy on their mystical and not-so-mystical mission across our strange America is in for a helluva journey. And a helluva good time!"

─Fred Chappell, award winning poet and author of Family Gathering, Backsass, and Shadowbox