In the idyllic town of Lake Esther, Florida, little is allowed to ripple the surface calm—which is just the way Sheriff Kyle Deluth likes it. But when Deluth "removes" two young children from the local school because of the color of their skin, the sheriff's senseless act of cruelty sparks a fire under the women of Lake Esther that will scorch the lives of all involved. In their pursuit of justice, an indomitable heiress, a revered journalist, and a fading Southern Belle will forge an unlikely alliance across the racial divide. One that will change the face of the town—and their lives—forever.
Deeply moving and peopled with a rich cast of characters, Susan Carol McCarthy mines the hotbed of racism with insight and compassion. Bittersweet, inspirational and wholly compelling, True Fires confirms McCarthy’s reputation as a dazzling new voice in probing real-life events to interpret the injustices of our past.
A sleepy 1950s Florida town becomes a racial battleground in McCarthy's insightful, fervent second novel (after Lay That Trumpet in Our Hands). Recently widowed, Franklin Dare moves his family to Florida to start a new life in the lush citrus groves. But his young children catch the eye of a corrupt sheriff, K.A. DeLuth, who proclaims Daniel's hair too "kinked" and Rebecca's nose too wide and bans them from Lake Esther Elementary (according to Florida law, any child deemed one-eighth black or more cannot attend an all-white school). Only unimpeachable evidence that Franklin has no black blood in fact, he is part Croatan Indian will result in the children's readmittance. Employing the Dare affair in his re-election campaign, DeLuth stirs up local racists and Klan members. But two of the area's most prominent and spirited women newspaper editor Ruth Cooper Barrows and Lila Hightower, the daughter of the county's deceased strongman, whom DeLuth once counted as an ally crusade in defense of the children. While the sheriff wins re-election, he loses face when more townsfolk come forward to side with the Dares, who are prepared to take their fight to court. The Dares' legal triumph over a bumbling defense isn't quite the end, though, as DeLuth proves his insanity and a friend of Daniel's makes the ultimate sacrifice. The ending may present more questions than answers, but it doesn't take away from McCarthy's flawless dialogue, warm characters and compassionate wit, all of which service a moving story about the powers of love and justice.