In this wry fiction debut, Elaine Meryl Brown plunges lucky readers into a gripping narrative of small-town hijinks and big-time hearts.
Rule Number One: Never marry an Outsider. If you do, the boll weevil will bite you back. Rule Number Two: If you can’t be honest, you might as well be dead.
Nestled in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge mountains, Lemon City has ten rules, all designed in the best interests of its tight-knit black community. Granddaddy Dunlap knows all too well what can happen to folks who venture beyond Lemon City’s protective borders. He once had to venture outside town to identify his best friend’s body. So when his firebrand granddaughter Faye, returns from college married to an Outsider, he must act fast to keep her in Lemon City’s safe embrace.
It proves to be a challenge–and not just because the patriarch is distracted by the tensions arising from the heated tomato-growing contest for the annual county fair. Faye’s new husband, Harry, is a slick talker with a roving eye. Faye sees him as her ticket to New York City, where she hopes to fulfill big business dreams, but even the best-laid plans can be thwarted, as Faye discovers that marriage itself isn’t much of a honeymoon. No matter. She packs her bags, fully prepared to head north with or without her husband, when Harry turns up dead. Now the Dunlap family is trying to figure out–before the Thanksgiving turkey gets cold–who did the deed.
Set in Lemon City, an isolated town in the foothills of Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains settled by freed slaves before the Civil War, Brown's inspiring, slyly amusing novel marks the debut of a welcome new voice in African-American fiction. On Thanksgiving Day, 1973, the entire Dunlap family, including Granddaddy, his wife, Nana, and granddaughter Faye, are under house arrest pending the sheriff's investigation into the murder of Harry Lee Thompson, Faye's estranged husband. ("As Faye stared at the turkey, it reminded her of the last time she saw Harry, flat on his back on their living room floor with his stomach distended and a tomato lodged in his mouth.") The year before, Faye broke Lemon City's "Outsider Rule" by wedding Harry, a dubious character with "few roots" whom she met at college. Harry's mysterious death sets the stage for the main story, Faye's campaign to leave Lemon City. She's drawn to the North by the Civil Rights movement and a desire to contribute to her people's advancement. In the end, Faye recognizes the power of dreams and the need to see the world with clear eyes.