Eve Mann arrives in Ideal, Georgia, in 1972 looking for answers about the mother who died giving her life. A mother named Mercy. A mother who for all of Eve’s twenty-two years has been a mystery and a quest. Eve’s search for her mother, and the father she never knew, is a mission to discover her identity, her name, her people, and her home.
Eve’s questions and longing launch a multigenerational story that sprawls back to the turn of the twentieth century, settles into the soil of the South, the blood and souls of Black folk making love and life and fleeing in a Great Migration into the savage embrace of the North.
Eve is a young woman coming of age in Chicago against the backdrop of the twin fires and fury of the civil rights and Black Power movements—a time when everything and everyone, it seems, longs to be made anew.
At the core of this story are the various meanings of love—how we love and, most of all, whom we love. everyman is peopled by rebellious Black women straining against the yoke of convention and designated identities, explorers announcing their determination to be and to be free. There is Nelle, Eve’s best friend and heart, who claims her right both to love women and to always love Eve as a sister and friend.
Brother Lee Roy, professor and mentor, gives Eve the tools for her genealogical search while turning away from his own bitter harvest of family secrets. Mama Ann, the aunt who has raised Eve and knows everything about Mercy, offers Eve a silence that she defines as protection and care. But it is James and Geneva, two strangers whom Eve meets in Ideal, who plumb the depths of their own hurt and reconciliations to finally give Eve the gift of her past, a reimagined present, and finally, her name.
Conner's inviting debut unearths a young Black woman's family history. Eve Mann, 22, was raised by her taciturn aunt in Chicago and knows only that her mother died in childbirth after leaving her hometown of Ideal, Ga., for Chicago. She feels disconnected from her family history and heritage and is unsettled by her friend Nelle, who, after coming out as a lesbian, understands herself more than Eve ever has. So, guided by Black studies professor Brother LeRoi, Eve devotes herself to an independent study that lands her in Ideal, surrounded by people who know more about her ancestry than they are willing to share, among them 80-year-old Deuce, who tells her only part of the story of her philandering grandfather. The novel takes an inessential detour into LeRoi's family's past, but eventually comes back to the richer stories of Eve, Nelle, and their heritage. Conner weaves plenty of details of African American history throughout, such as the founding of the Tuskegee Institute and Martin Luther King Jr.'s alliance with a Chicago street gang, seamlessly connecting these events to the characters' lives. Overall, this wonderfully evokes a sense of place, and a palpable curiosity about the past.
This book triggered the importance of understanding my whole past (the negative & positive)