In a desperate bid, a dying mother takes out an ad in the paper and finds protection and love for her daughter from an unexpected source.
Former jazz star Betty Jewel Hughes expected her life to be different—and longer. But after her husband, Saint, squandered their careers and landed in jail, she came home to Shakerag, Miss., where she sang in the local blues joint and soon discovered she was pregnant with her daughter, Billie. Now, 10 years later, Betty Jewel is dying of cancer and her mother, Queen, is too old to take care of Billie on her own. Racial tension is heating up in the South of the mid-1950s, so Betty Jewel would be suspicious of any white woman responding to her classified ad looking for someone to take care of Billie, but Cassie Malone is especially problematic. After all, Cassie’s known for making trouble by questioning the status quo. At first, the part-time reporter and columnist for the local paper just wants to do an article on Betty Jewel and the ad. But the more time Cassie spends with Betty Jewel, Queen and Billie, the more she realizes the story is complex and layered, and she becomes invested in the dying woman and her family. However, neither community—Cassie’s nor Betty Jewel’s—is excited about a friendship between the two women, much less a proposed adoption. As secrets and unexpected connections are revealed, the women must fight for a special girl in an uncertain world. Hussey has written a lovely, poetic book about race, love, mothers, daughters and friends that navigates a spectrum of emotional minefields. With well-drawn, authentic characters and a lyrical writing style that occasionally gets in its own way, the story is sweet and hopeful, with impressive dialogue. A certain fairy-tale realism—similar to that of The Help, which this book will inevitably be compared to—makes the concept both believable and entertaining, if perhaps a little glossy given the true history of the racial tension of the time.
An endearing and emotionally satisfying exploration of race, family and friendship in trying times.