Longlisted for the National Book Award
A New York Times Notable Book
The moving, multi-generational debut novel from the author of On the Rooftop, a Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick
“Brilliantly juxtaposing World War II, the '80s and post–Katrina present, Sexton follows three generations of a Black New Orleans family as they struggle to bloom amid the poison of racism.” —People
Evelyn is a Creole woman who comes of age in New Orleans at the height of World War II. In 1982, Evelyn’s daughter, Jackie, is a frazzled single mother grappling with her absent husband’s drug addiction. Jackie’s son, T.C., loves the creative process of growing marijuana more than the weed itself. He was a square before Hurricane Katrina, but the New Orleans he knew didn’t survive the storm. For Evelyn, Jim Crow is an ongoing reality, and in its wake new threats spring up to haunt her descendants. Margaret Wilkerson Sexton’s critically acclaimed debut is an urgent novel that explores the legacy of racial disparity in the South through a poignant and redemptive family history.
Set in Sexton's native New Orleans, this emotionally wrenching, character-rich debut spans three generations in a city deeply impacted by segregation, economic inequality, and racial tensions. It begins with a 1940s romance between Evelyn, the eldest daughter in a relatively well-off Creole family, and Renard, the son of a janitor, whose dreams are bigger than his station in life can hold. Their daughter, Jackie, becomes a mother in the Reagan-era 1980s, struggling through the economic downturn that derails her husband's promising career and starts him on a tumultuous path of addiction and empty promises. Their grandson, T.C., lives through the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, watching it transform his city and himself into something unfamiliar. Yet when his ambitions falter, he braces himself with the need to be present in his newborn son's life in the way his father never was. Sexton's narrative navigates complex topics with an adroit sensitivity that lends sympathy to each character's realistic, if occasionally self-destructive, motivations. Being able to capture 70 years of New Orleans history and the emotional changes in one family in such a short book is a testament to Sexton's powers of descriptive restraint. In this fine debut, each generation comes with new possibilities and deferred dreams blossoming with the hope that this time, finally, those dreams may come to fruition.)
The author really does a wonderful job of discussing the delicacy of freedom and how the illusion is fleeting. The multi-generational narration leaves you wanted to learn more about the characters.