Two women, two secrets: one desperate and extraordinary day. In the high heat of an Indiana summer, news spreads fast. When Marvel, the local county seat, plans to lynch three young black men, word travels faster. It is August, 1930, the height of the Jim Crow era, and the prospect of the spectacle sends shockwaves rumbling through farm country as far as a day's wagon-ride away.
Ottie Lee Henshaw, a fiery small-town beauty, sets out with her lecherous boss and brooding husband to join in whatever fun there is to be had. At the opposite end of the road to Marvel, Calla Destry, a young African-American woman determined to escape the violence, leaves home to find the lover who has promised her a new life.
As the countryside explodes in frenzied revelry, the road is no place for either. It is populated by wild-eyed demagogues, marauding vigilantes, possessed bloodhounds, and even by the Ku Klux Klan itself. Reminiscent of the works of Louise Erdrich, Edward P. Jones, and Marilynne Robinson, The Evening Road is the story of two remarkable woman on the move through an America riven by fear and hatred, and eager to flee the secrets they have left behind.
At once dreamily timeless and fitting for the current national moment, Hunt's (Neverhome) hypnotic latest takes place on one evening in August 1920, when two equally strong and scarred women cross paths in Indiana. Ottie Lee Henshaw is at work when her boss reports that townspeople in nearby Marvel are planning to lynch several black youths accused of crimes against whites. Elated, he gathers Ottie Lee and her husband, Dale, and the three (all of whom are white) set off for the "rope party." Their trip is constantly interrupted by the lure of a catfish supper, a car accident that leaves them walking, and a chance ride that delivers them to a Quaker prayer vigil instead of the lynching as Ottie Lee's vibrant facade slowly cracks to reveal her deep fears. Meanwhile, black teenager Calla Destry goes to the river near Marvel to meet her ambitious white lover who calls himself Leander. When he doesn't show, she takes her foster father's car and rides off to escape Marvel's angry mob and find Leander for an urgent conversation. As her mind shifts between past and present, real and imaginary, Calla's journey reveals the secrets she hides. Though the novel's meandering odysseys sometimes feel frustrating, Hunt's striking prose and visionary imagery capture America's community bonds, violent prejudices, falling darkness, and searing light.