Ceci skillfully paints a portrait of deeply pious and deeply prejudiced townspeople during a time when to be anything other than a straight white Christian was dangerous. He poignantly reveals the hypocrisy of those who profess a loving faith while treating others poorly for their race or sexual orientation. The author drives this point home by showing that Lerner Alquist’s deep prejudices cost him the very things he holds dear. History buffs, especially those who are students of the grave inequities suffered by nonwhite people, non-Christians, and gay people in mid-century America, will find much they recognize.
Ceci’s lyrical writing (“She was still there when the rain clouds loosened their grip and pale blue light slid through ever-widening sky to disclose the dawn”) and deft worldbuilding make Croy a town readers will easily get lost in. Vivid characterization renders the characters’ sorrows all the more poignant, and Ceci pulls no punches when depicting the virulence of bigotry and the toll it takes on both its victims and its perpetrators. This portrait of the many forms and shades of grief will leave readers breathless.
Takeaway: This expertly researched and skillfully written tale of love, rage, and grief will engross any reader with an interest in the mid-20th-century Midwest.
Great for fans of Todd Haynes’s Far from Heaven, James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room, John Knowles’s A Separate Peace.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A-