An epic account of one remarkable woman's quest for justice from the New York Times bestselling author of The Widow of the South and A Separate Country.
In the years following the Civil War, Mariah Reddick, former slave to Carrie McGavock--the "Widow of the South"--has quietly built a new life for herself as a midwife to the women of Franklin, Tennessee. But when her ambitious, politically minded grown son, Theopolis, is murdered, Mariah--no stranger to loss--finds her world once more breaking apart. How could this happen? Who wanted him dead? Mariah's journey to uncover the truth leads her to unexpected people--including George Tole, a recent arrival to town, fleeing a difficult past of his own--and forces her to confront the truths of her own past. Brimming with the vivid prose and historical research that has won Robert Hicks recognition as a "master storyteller" (San Francisco Chronicle).
Hicks's (The Widow of the South) latest yarn opens two years after the end of the Civil War, focusing on freed slave Mariah Reddick, a trusted and sought-after midwife in Franklin, Tenn. Mariah now has a grown son, Theopolis, a cobbler with political aspirations. Mariah becomes acquainted with George Tole, a free black New Yorker whose reputation as a sharp-shooting assassin precedes him to Franklin. But George has been coerced by an evil Franklin magistrate, Elijah Dixon, to do his bidding, and when a political rally at which Theopolis tries to take the stage becomes violent, the young man is killed but it's not clear who killed him. The lives of Mariah and George converge as Mariah seeks retribution and George seeks redemption, each playing a major role in unmasking the latent nastiness among the deeply prejudiced Franklin citizenry. Hicks is a talented storyteller, and this story moves at a clip, but it feels deliberate and inorganic, his characters sometimes seemingly just vehicles moving the story forward. Mariah has lost her only son, yet she shows an unbelievable lack of emotion. The bad guys, while compelling, are amusing caricatures. Only George seems truly flesh and blood, and is the most memorable character.
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wonderful read that leaves a lasting impression, even for those (who like me) have not read A Widow
Starting in 1912, the bequest from former slave Mariah Reddick is substantial enough to construct a chapel or a library. Representatives from this black university wish for the building to be named for her, an honor she refuses. It is not who she is that makes the gift possible, it is the journeys that she and others took to get there, and her wish that opportunities for more and different be afforded to others.
Slowly from here, we are told of her story as I unfolded during the years after the Civil War. Surrounded by the losers in that conflict, yet “free” Mariah provides a service to the women of Franklin Tennessee, she is a midwife. As the story unfolds, Hicks takes us through the tensions, prejudices and rumors running rife.
Ultimately, Mariah’s story touches on life, loss, love, hatred and fears, and shows in ways that are not unique to the human experience. Persevering and moving forward in her search for answers as she overcomes or simply moves on despite obstacles. Surprisingly resonant in today’s climate, the divisions, the outright hostilities and Mariah’s single-minded determination to resolve the mystery surrounding her son’s death are gripping and viscerally impacting.
Hicks has managed to open the door to situations of struggle, loss, societal upheaval and the fear-driven rumors that exacerbate situations, building the world in ways that create visual images and emotional reactions from readers. It’s not always pretty, or particularly comfortable to see the naked hatreds, the prejudices and slights that are blatant and more shocking for their normalcy. A wonderful read that leaves a lasting impression, even for those (who like me) have not read A Widow of the South.
I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.