Published August 2022 by She Write Press
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher, in exchange for an honest review, through TLC Book Tours
Forty-six-year-old Madeline Fairbanks has no use for ideas like "separation of the races" or "men as the superior sex." There are many in her dying Southern Appalachian town who are upset by her socially progressive views, but for years--partly due to her late husband's still-powerful influence, and partly due to her skill as a healer in a remote town with no doctor of its own--folks have been willing to turn a blind eye to her "transgressions." Even Maddie's decision to take on a Black apprentice, Ren Morgan, goes largely unchallenged by her white neighbors, though it's certainly grumbled about. But when a charismatic and power-hungry new reverend blows into town in 1917 and begins to preach about the importance of racial segregation, the long-idle local KKK chapter fires back into action--and places Maddie and her friends in Jamesville's Black community squarely in their sights. Maddie had better stop intermingling with Black folks, discontinue her herbalistic "witchcraft," and leave town immediately, they threaten, or they'll lynch Ren's father, Daniel. Faced with this decision, Maddie is terrified . . . and torn. Will she bow to their demands and walk away--or will she fight to keep the home she's built in Jamestown and protect the future of the people she loves, both Black and white?
Remember Sunday when I was lamenting that I had missed my review date for this book? So I raced through it only to discover today that it was meant to be an Instagram post that I missed. Seriously the easiest thing to do and I missed it. Which all goes to tell you something about my state of mind. And also something about why my review is what it is.
The notes about Adele Holmes call this book Southern gothic. According to Wikipedia, Southern Gothic includes "storytelling of deeply flawed, disturbing or eccentric characters who may be involved in hoodoo, decayed or derelict settings, grotesque situations, and other sinister events relating to or stemming from poverty, alienation, crime, or violence." Let's see how this book fits that:
Deeply flawed character? Check
Eccentric character? Check and check
Characters who may be involved in hoodoo? This one does talk about hoodoo, so check
Decayed settings? A town that's dying, so, again, check
Events stemming from poverty? Check
Events stemming from violence? Check
Events stemming from alienation? Check
Sinister events? Check and check
I'd say that publisher bit is spot on, according to the Wikipedia definition. But this is also the story of strong women, so often lacking in Southern Gothic fiction.
Maddie comes from a long line of healers; but, after not being able to save her only son, Maddie doubts she has inherited the full gifts of her ancestors. Still, she believes, despite the ignorance of so many around her, that she is called to care for all of the people of her valley and to pass along her knowledge to her granddaughter, Hannah, and her friend, Ren. And she believes that those people have come to accept her, after more than 20 years in the valley. That is until Carl Howard, the new "reverend" finds that the best way to get people (ok, the men) to follow him is to play to their deepest fears, which turn out to be "uppity" women and black people. That puts Maddie and Ren in danger, although neither of them sees Carl for exactly what he is until their friendship is torn apart.
This book was a slow build for me, taking nearly 100 pages to really begin to draw me into it. After that, it was nonstop action with a blizzard, a hermit, a killing, blackmail, and a murder plot. This one might have worked a little better with less going on. But most of the time while I was reading it, I couldn't help but think how much my mom would have enjoyed this book, with her ability to focus on the good and overlook the shortcomings of historical fiction that features strong female characters. The Mom Stamp of Approval is always a good thing!
Ooh.. this sounds kind of interesting, I might have to just throw this in my fall pile! Thank you for being on this tour. Sara @ TLC Book ToursReplyDelete