Okay, so I read an intellectually stimulating book this week, and I totally need to recommend it to anyone who'll listen to me.
I received it as a hardcover for Christmas (and put off reading it for fear of messing up my own WIP.) It's now available as both a Kindle on Amazon and in paperback. It's award winning. And it's a debut novel that will make you cry in envy if you're a writer.
The story is set in the post WWII South. Black soldiers trained and fought in Europe, defending America's interests. Instead of being greeted as heros, they came home to find all the old prejudices that they left behind.
All of the returning soldiers, black or white, came home with inner demons. Women's roles in America were changing, and expectations were caught between the old and new, especially in the South.
The novel is told with rotating viewpoints, each chapter heading is the name of the narrating character. It may be a bit tricky at first, but when you catch on it's an extremely compelling device. Especially to hear the same riveting incident from several different points of view.
The writing is both lyrical and solid. Hillary Jordan paints us such a complete portrait that you can picture the muddy fields and dusty farmhouse even if you've never lived in the rural South. She firmly puts us in the head of the main female character, which a reader would expect from a woman writer of a similar age, but she also fully captures the voices of the black mother and son, and the white male farmer and his WWII pilot brother. The narration all flows smoothly.
The opening chapter is from the end of the actual story, where two of the main characters are digging a deep grave in the muddy field to bury their father. It's a brilliant starting point and opens so many questions in the reader's mind. The answers trickle down slowly, and are not always what you may have expected them to be.
Circumstances forced me to put the book down halfway, but I picked it up the following day and gobbled the rest of the story, needing to understand what had brought the characters to that muddy field to dig that grave. All of the character voices and stories tie together so well. The ending itself was a little vague, full of "what ifs" of the final character's narrative that leave you to imagine the ending you think he deserves.
Has anyone else read this book? I'd love to hear what you thought. I'm totally green with envy for the wonderful storytelling and unique perspective Jordan brings to the story of race relations in America. It reads like a piece of history that's been swept under the rug and is only now being shaken out into the light of day.