Publication Date: 2008
Challenges: A-Z Reading #28 (J Author)
Wow! This was a wonderful book. I had high hopes going in because two people whose recommendations on Southern reading I trust had both recommended this one highly. Both my Surly friend and Maggie gave it high praise and I must say that praise was well deserved.
Laura McAllan never expected to find herself living in a ramshackle house on a farm in the Mississippi Delta that has no indoor plumbing or electricity. Whenever it rains, the farm is cut off from town because the bridge becomes impassable. This book is told in alternating chapters by several of the main characters. The relationships that exist between Henry and Laura McAllan and their closest neighbors, Hap and Florence Jackson are complex. The two families are in a sharecropping situation and rely on each other as much as they remain separated by race, custom, and societal expectations. When Laura McAllan’s brother-in-law, Jamie and the Jackson’s oldest son, Ronsel return from World War II, things become even more complex.
The writing is exquisite. This is just one of the many memorable passages (these are Florence Jackson’s words):
Soft citybred women like Laura McAllen weren’t meant for living in the Delta. Delta’ll take a woman like that and suck all the sap out of her till there ain’t nothing left but bone and grudge, against him that brung her here and the land that holds him and her with him. Henry McAllen was as landsick as any man I ever seen and I seen plenty of em, white and colored both. It’s in their eyes, the way they look at the land like a woman they’s itching for. White men already got her, they thinking, You mine now, just you wait and see what I’m gone do to you. Colored men ain’t got her and ain’t never gone get her but they dreaming bout her just the same, with every push of that plow and every chop of that hoe. White or colored, none of em got sense enough to see that she the one owns them. She takes their sweat and blood and the sweat and blood of all their women and children and when she done took it all she takes their bodies too, churning and churning em up they they one and the same, them and her.
The best book I’ve read this year – don’t miss it.