In 1918, against the backdrop of WW1, the re-emerging Ku Klux Klan, and the Spanish Influenza, a young unconventional schoolteacher inherits her uncle’s farm in Ray’s Mill, Georgia. She plunges herself and those she loves into the violence of the Klan when she takes a stand against racial injustice. The story is based on true events, including the brutal lynching of Mary Turner, and her unborn baby, whose only crime was speaking out against her husband’s lynching. Anne Aletha explores the arduous balance of finding acceptance without compromising your ideals.
Wright cleverly intertwines fact with fiction as she outlines the horrific prejudices in early-20th-century Georgia and the difficult decisions facing those who wanted to promote equality. Anne Aletha is a magnetic and almost too-wonderful protagonist. She’s admirable in her determination to educate all children and truly human when succumbing to her desire for Patten or furiously grieving lynchings and influenza deaths. She practices what she preaches, forming a true friendship with the Hamiltons (who are fully realized characters) and pitching in with Nellie’s laundry business. She also helps children orphaned by influenza and corresponds with her brother Frank, who’s serving in the military in France.
Though the plot trails off at the end without a real sense of finality, the pace is otherwise even and immersive. The vernacular (“Learned him to hunt and fish, and look after hisself”) is appropriate to the characters and adds color without overwhelming the dialogue. This intriguing story is greatly enhanced by the close-up view of a tumultuous era.
Takeaway: Fans of American historical fiction and strong women will be delighted by this vivid story of love and activism in 1918 Georgia.
Great for fans of Great for fans of Sue Monk Kidd’s The Invention of Wings, Jojo Moyes’s The Giver of Stars.
Design and typography: B
Marketing copy: B+