Big Cactus

By Sylvia Wilkinson

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 has dreamed of seeing since her own daddy put dreams 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.


“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

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

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

“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? 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 Walking Across Egypt.

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.

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.

***Signed editions available***

  • Price: US$24.95
  • Publisher: ‎ Owl Canyon Press
  • Language: ‎ English
  • Hardcover: ‎ 231 pages
  • Dimensions: ‎ 6.5 x 1 x 9.5 inches

Ordering Information