A black law student wins $5 million in a lottery in the 1960s.
When Henry Adam Johnson, Jr., the valedictorian of his class at Griffon University, a college in South Carolina, wins a lottery in his final year of law school, his life changes. He feels able to pursue a relationship with Mary Mathews, a fellow student from a wealthy white family. While their parents are initially shocked, they eventually accept their marriage. Although Henry and Mary have support from some of their peers, not everyone in Griffon accepts their relationship. Racist townsmen disrupt their wedding, and Henry’s new law practice faces challenges subtle and overt as he tries to establish his firm. Although their relationship and his business do ultimately prevail, the effects of their community’s prejudice affect them throughout their lives. This debut novel offers a somewhat simplified depiction of the 1960s South and understates racial tensions during that era. Henry earnestly tells Mary, “This is the South and we blacks are still having a tough time.” The novel, while well-meaning, presents a version of history in which determined African-Americans could simply overcome the problems of living in the South (Henry’s father was the son of a cotton farmer who “defied all odds and earned a college education in the 1930s”), where idyllic Southern colleges were placidly integrated and police were appalled by white aggression toward African-Americans. In addition, the characters don’t assume much depth, and the prose is stiff and unpersuasive, often falling into simple chronological summary.
A historically inaccurate tale about an interracial 1960s romance.