Calling to mind the depth and storytelling power of Lewis DeSoto’s A Blade of Grass and Lori Lansens’ Rush Home Road, Hillary Jordan’s stunning debut novel reveals how prejudice can take many forms, both subtle and brutal.
It is 1946, and city-bred Laura McAllan is trying to raise her daughters on her husband’s Mississippi Delta farm—a place she finds foreign and frightening. In the midst of the family’s struggles, two men return from the war to work the land. Jamie McAllan, Laura’s brother-in-law, is everything her husband is not—charming, handsome and haunted by memories of combat. Ronsel Jackson, eldest son of the black sharecroppers who live on the McAllan farm, has come home with the shine of a war hero. But despite his bravery in defence of his country, Jackson is still considered less of a man in the Jim Crow South. It is the unlikely friendship of these brothers-in-arms that drives this gripping and prismatic novel to its inexorable conclusion.
The men and women of each family relate their versions of events, drawing us into their lives as they become players in a tragedy of grand scale. As Barbara Kingsolver says, “[Jordan’s] characters walked straight out of 1940s Mississippi and into the part of my brain where sympathy and anger and love reside, leaving my heart racing. They are with me still.”