Author: Erin Bartels
Release Date: January 1, 2019
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewer: Jessica Higgins
Three significant stories all woven together through a common theme of racial tension.
Elizabeth Basalm is a reporter for the Detroit Free Press who has just gotten a strange request from James Rich. An elderly man, Mr. Rich asks Elizabeth if she is related to a Nora Basalm, as he has something of hers that needs to be returned. It is a camera that has been in police evidence since the 1960s riots. Elizabeth has never heard of Nora, but she has been trying to pin part of the riots activity on the elusive Judge Sharpe. If these pictures have incriminating evidence, she might just be able to punch her ticket to major headlines. But to do so will mean opening doors that some people want to be left closed.
Nora Basalm lives in Detroit’s Bloomfield Hills, which is all upper class and all white. In the 1960s, even though the north doesn’t have the Jim Crowe laws, there is still natural segregation. While at an art expo, she stumbles on a photograph of her father looking angry and hateful, she finds the photographer and asks if he will take down the picture. He agrees, but only if she buys him a new camera since the man in the photograph smashed his. After she meets him again with the camera, she begins to learn more about the man that she might even have feelings of love. But to fall in love and marry him might mean career and social suicide. It seems neither race wants to see this relationship succeed.
The civil war has just broken out and Mary Basalm’s husband Nathaniel has decided to enlist leaving her behind at the family farm. As she frets over his wellbeing, his trunk and a letter arrive one day. Terrified of the worst, she opens the trunk to reveal a runaway slave named George has been packed inside of it. As the war progresses, George and Mary become equals on running the farm and managing the affairs in Nathaniel’s absence. Mary becomes to rely on George more than anyone else in her life, which begins to cause a huge rift between her and everyone she knows.
This was an incredible debut novel that tackles a subject that has been sensitive for centuries. Bartels weaves three different stories that all center around racial tensions at three different time periods: present day, civil rights era, and the civil war. The main characters of each story are involved in different interracial relationships, one in marriage, one in dating, and one that is completely forbidden. Each story addresses the situation of the time period, but also shows how strong the main female characters are. The entire book is educational, historical, entertaining, and unfortunately, sad. All of the stories are also centered around a family farm house. It’s sad to think of all the stories within a house that have occurred but have been forgotten over time.
I highly recommended this book for people who enjoy reading about controversy as well as about the time periods included. Great book to start off the year!
I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher. The views and opinions express within are my own.