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I was really surprised at the beginning of the book by the author giving the reader the option of reading the book with or without the southern dialect in the narrative, this is the first time I have come across this and truly appreciated the thoughtfulness. I chose to read the book without the southern dialect. The main story almost started immediately and the author's style of writing really brought the story and the characters alive. I was so drawn to the storyline that I found the book very hard to put down. I am quite a slow reader normally but actually read this book in three days which is quite a record for me, I just could not stop turning those pages!
Alison is only 18 and has been sheltered and protected all her life by her domineering father who she absolutely adores. For years she has had deep rooted beliefs drilled into her and more importantly that she has learnt 'her place' in life. She has lived all her life in a segregated world of whites and coloureds, the coloured people worked on her father's farm or lived in the town, they did not deserve to be spoken to or even be acknowledged, that was the norm. She has never had to question these beliefs and considered them the natural way to live until one day she finds a coloured man's body, Byron Bingham, laying dead and well beaten in the river. Unbeknownst to Alison at the time, this event will turn her life upside down and inside out.
Alison cannot help but question why this has happened and just how this tragedy must have affected the dead man's family. She begins to feel shame and disgust for the way she, as well as others, have behaved towards the coloured people in her town and even starts to hate her fiance Jimmy Lee, who finds the chasing and beating of coloured's entertainment, he even let's her younger brother join in on the so called fun. What is more, Maggie her older sister who schools away in New York, knows of a different world where whites and coloureds integrate well and starts to open her eyes to a whole new world.
Still engaged and planning her wedding, she meets kind and gentle Jackson, her soul partner whose soft love she falls deeply for but cannot allow her true love of a coloured man to continue for fear of what would happen to Jackson and the possibility of losing her father's love completely.
The book will have you hooked as you follow the tense rollercoaster story and the shocking and chaotic civil right era along with the sympathisers who help to try and make it a fairer and safer place to live for everyone. I could have read so much more about Alison and Jackson's relationship, it was so beautiful.
This is quite a powerful and emotional story that at times made me feel pain, sadness and even anger at the way life was so different then and how people were treated so horrendously. Yet the story is written in such a wonderful way that there is also so much beauty, love and respect that it will really pull on your heart. I felt myself wanting to shout out to Alison but had to remind myself that her world was completely different to the world we now take for granted and decisions could not be taken at will.
Truly a highly recommended emotive read that won't just leave you after you have turned the last page. It will certainly leave you wanting more and I cannot wait to read much more from this author.