"Return to Freedom" -- Clayton's new novel -- is a welcome return to the dramatic, stifling and at times destructive world of small town of Freedom, Mississippi first seen in his book "Backside of Nowhere." Clayton adroitly portrays the inner thoughts of central characters Bitsey and Malcolm, and I especially liked his treatment of the poor yet wise middle-aged mother Bitsey. It's not easy for a male author to pull off a female character with this level of insight, and I credit Clayton's long marriage for giving him some of this insight. The treatment of Malcolm is equally satisfying, although I found the way Justin (their son) dies to be less dramatic than it should have been: in fact, I almost missed the death, and had to go back to find it. In the end, this death reverberates in interesting ways through the novel, and only the initial moment threw me. Clayton's treatment of Sonny Staples and Beulah Booker Taylor is a little less satisfying for me, especially since Beulah's orientation and her struggle with it is obvious to the reader far before Beulah herself owns up. However, Clayton wraps up the complicated threads of the various stories with a sure hand. Clayton has mastered the task of getting inside his characters' heads: "Return to Freedom" could use a bit more plot momentum, and structural editing to hone the tale to a tighter storyline, but overall it is a very satisfying read.