Alexander and John are both in love with the same woman yet neither knows how to appropriately show their affection without leaving her hurt emotionally and physically. And for one the love is forbidden which is the major source of conflict in this novel. The author's depiction of the lives of sharecroppers would make a good argument of why this practice was as detrimental to Blacks as, if not actually worse than, slavery. The squalid living conditions and unfair arrangements for payments and advances against labor were deplorable. Another social issue tackled is the marginalization of women. The status of the rural Southern woman was very bleak for both Blacks and whites. They both dealt with philandering husbands which was acceptable amongst their social class and being silenced. This was not news to me however, Howard's portrayal was like re-opening a wound and I was angered so much when this matter was brought up. John Welles angered me most with his self-righteous attitude even after he left his wife and children with nothing to seek his fortune. These women had to endure everything thrown at them while keeping up the dutiful, loyal wife routine without so much as an eye roll. Eula does get her opportunity to use her voice in her journal even if it is only for herself. Annalaura even gets a bit of poetic justice in the end when she gets to make a life changing decision on her terms.
Reading this in two sittings, Howard's writing was well paced and never really hit any lulls. She has written great nuanced characters and the story felt like she was comfortable in the narrative as it's not forced. And I always applaud those who bravely take on whorehouses and Southern dialect without it all coming off as trite. Though it's hard for me to digest tales involving the disparaging treatment of women, it was worth it and deserves every accolade it has coming. Yes, I'm being prophetic. I do hope to see this also become part of the scholarly canon of fiction on women's studies. I highly recommend this entertaining and poignant debut novel.
I received a copy of this book from the author.