Library Journal Review
In 1930 Georgia, retribution is swift when white sharecropper's daughter Elma Jesup gives birth to two babies, one dark-skinned. For the presumed rape, field hand Genus Jackson is dragged to his death down a local road called the Twelve-Mile Straight. Thus does the tragedy of racial violence in the Jim Crow South shape the narrative, but -Henderson (Ten Thousand Saints) is after something more, showing the damage wrought by divisions of class as well as race and the way both a family and a community can be sustained by lies. As Elma raises the children with the help of young black housekeeper Nan, nearly a sister to her, it's evident that her dreams for a better life were short-circuited from the start by the contempt with which folks like her are regarded by other whites. The tangled, often painful relations binding Nan, Elma, and Elma's father also emerge, along with questions regarding the children's paternity, a mystery that drives the narrative forward to a strong, morally riven climax. VERDICT -Henderson's highly recommended title delivers a powerful tale of social complexity told in radiant and precise prose. [See Prepub Alert, 3/3/17.]-Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Lingering in the overheated world of the Deep South during the Depression, the convoluted second novel by Henderson (Ten Thousand Saints) delves into questions of race, class, and gender, sometimes at the expense of character development. When Georgia sharecropper and bootlegger Juke's teenaged daughter, Elma, claims to have given birth to twins, one white and one black, her father and her wealthy ne'er-do-well fiancé become enraged, and a black field hand is lynched. Elma cares for the children with the help of Nan, a mute young black servant and midwife in whom Juke takes an interest. The babies are treated as a miracle by some in the community and a sin by others, and they attract the attention of both a polio-stricken researcher who studies sickle cell disease at a university in Atlanta and the members of a chain gang who are paving the little back road on which Elma's family lives. The richly detailed landscape of the volatile mill town where the novel is set immerse the reader in an unsentimental version of the South under economic and social pressure. The plot of the novel is less promising: readers are likely to figure out supposed secrets long before they are revealed. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.