"Warley is a knowledgeable writer, weaving in period detail and historical fact to develop a rich, engaging narrative . . ."– Kirkus Reviews
Under pressure from his liberal wife, a member of Charleston society reluctantly adopts a baby girl from Korea in this novel by Southerner Warley (The Moralist, 2011, etc.), himself the father of a daughter born in Korea.
In the late 1970s, Elizabeth Carter and her litigating attorney husband, Coleman, are raising their two sons in New Hampton, Va. Elizabeth is a native Kansan. Although she plays the part of traditional wife and mother, she’s a quiet rebel—i.e., she won’t join the Junior League—who has always wanted to adopt a Korean baby. Coleman, on the other hand, was raised in Charleston by parents who drummed into his head the danger inherent in threatening their traditional values: God, family and South Carolina (by which they meant established Charleston families) above all. He has serious reservations about bringing an Asian child into the family, but he acquiesces, recognizing that it’s time to cast off his parents’ fear of change. Meanwhile, in Korea, a young mother reluctantly gives up her beloved infant, knowing that adoption in America is her daughter’s one chance to survive and prosper. That child becomes Allie, the Carters’ new daughter. Shortly after her arrival from Korea, the family moves back to Charleston, the only home Allie will know. Smart and adorable, she fits into the Carters’ lives more seamlessly than either parent might have expected, and Coleman especially adores her. When tragedy strikes less than halfway through the novel, he rises to the occasion. But seven years later, when Allie is a Princeton-bound high school senior, a seemingly trivial issue—her exclusion from a society ball—becomes a major crisis. After Coleman fails to win over the society’s board members, several of whom he counts as close friends, a Jewish ACLU attorney from New York pressures him to sue for discrimination.
Although manipulatively written, with a heavy-handed plot and a cast of noble Asians, Warley’s story offers a surprisingly nuanced take on political correctness.
In this historical novel, Warley (A Southern Girl, 2014) draws on actual events to tell a story set in Beaufort, South Carolina, which was occupied by the U.S. military for the duration of the Civil War.
While most white families hurry to leave the city before the soldiers arrive, the aging Missma refuses to abandon her home. Missma’s 12-year-old grandson, Carter Barnwell, stays with her in the family’s hunting lodge on nearby Cane Island, and the two find ways to outwit the soldiers and make a home. The novel also follows Carter’s mother, Anna, as she takes refuge with other members of the family; his brother Preston, off in the Confederate army; his cousin Gabriel Heyward, a lady’s man who turns Carter into a spy; Swedish-American mother and daughter Christina and Sonja Sunblad, who travel from Pennsylvania to teach freed slaves in Beaufort; and Lt. Newton Spruill, who resents the Southerners he oversees in the occupation. The novel follows Carter and the other characters through the war as they fight to survive and, in many cases, preserve a way of life that has left them behind. Warley is a knowledgeable writer, weaving in period detail and historical fact to develop a rich, engaging narrative, although it is primarily sympathetic to the white Southern viewpoint. Black characters speak in painfully rendered dialect (“Me peoples yere. Uh ‘spect uh gwine stay. Barnwells bin good to ole Rosa. I tank ya fo’ dat;” “Dem forts fall, we gwain stay right ‘chere”), and Christina and Sonja’s students are portrayed as largely ignorant (“They did not know they lived in a state called South Carolina, or in a country called the United States, or on an ocean called the Atlantic”). Missma explains that the Barnwells sold off most of their slaves and quietly freed two but is committed to the South as she knows it. Spruill, who attacks Sonja and persecutes Carter, is a prototypical villainous Yankee.
A well-researched Civil War novel sympathetic to the Confederacy.