From New York Times bestselling author Eleanor Henderson, an audacious American epic set in rural Georgia during the years of the Depression and Prohibition.
Cotton County, Georgia, 1930: in a house full of secrets, two babies-one light-skinned, the other dark-are born to Elma Jesup, a white sharecropper’s daughter. Accused of her rape, field hand Genus Jackson is lynched and dragged behind a truck down the Twelve-Mile Straight, the road to the nearby town. In the aftermath, the farm’s inhabitants are forced to contend with their complicity in a series of events that left a man dead and a family irrevocably fractured.
Despite the prying eyes and curious whispers of the townspeople, Elma begins to raise her babies as best as she can, under the roof of her mercurial father, Juke, and with the help of Nan, the young black housekeeper who is as close to Elma as a sister. But soon it becomes clear that the ties that bind all of them together are more intricate than any could have ever imagined. As startling revelations mount, a web of lies begins to collapse around the family, destabilizing their precarious world and forcing all to reckon with the painful truth.
Acclaimed author Eleanor Henderson has returned with a novel that combines the intimacy of a family drama with the staggering presence of a great Southern saga. Tackling themes of racialized violence, social division, and financial crisis, The Twelve-Mile Straight is a startlingly timely, emotionally resonant, and magnificent tour de force.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Race and history are tragically intertwined in this profoundly moving family drama. In 1930, Elma Jesup, an unmarried white woman in rural Cotton County, Georgia, gives birth to twins—one light-skinned and one dark-skinned—triggering a racist rage in the community that results in the brutal lynching of a Black man believed to be the babies’ father. As the twins grow up and Elma bonds with her Black housekeeper, Nan, complex secrets come to light, threatening to destroy Elma’s entire family. Eleanor Henderson’s gorgeously vivid writing is utterly transportive. Whether she was describing the dusty sorghum fields of summer or Elma’s quiet despair, we felt every word right down to our bones. The Twelve-Mile Straight is a stirring historical drama that draws on America’s past traumas in a way that resonates sharply today.
Lingering in the overheated world of the Deep South during the Depression, the convoluted second novel by Henderson (Ten Thousand Saints) delves into questions of race, class, and gender, sometimes at the expense of character development. When Georgia sharecropper and bootlegger Juke's teenaged daughter, Elma, claims to have given birth to twins, one white and one black, her father and her wealthy ne'er-do-well fianc become enraged, and a black field hand is lynched. Elma cares for the children with the help of Nan, a mute young black servant and midwife in whom Juke takes an interest. The babies are treated as a miracle by some in the community and a sin by others, and they attract the attention of both a polio-stricken researcher who studies sickle cell disease at a university in Atlanta and the members of a chain gang who are paving the little back road on which Elma's family lives. The richly detailed landscape of the volatile mill town where the novel is set immerse the reader in an unsentimental version of the South under economic and social pressure. The plot of the novel is less promising: readers are likely to figure out supposed secrets long before they are revealed.
The Twelve Mile Straight
I, a retired English teacher, have not read a really good book in a long stretch of years. This one assures me there are still really enjoyable ones, for I so, so enjoyed this one.
Twelve Mile Straight
Loved this book, could not put it down. Like how each persons was described, their past, present, and future.