Emotional courtroom drama explores the lingering psycological and social effects of the Jim Crow South.
For 35 years, Josup Noble, an African-American convicted of killing a white boy, has preferred to languish in a Georgia state prison rather than subject his family to the scrutiny that a second trial would require. For 35 years, his daughter Gilly has worked for his release, launching an impressive law career and lining up powerful allies in order to build a solid case. While her desire for invulnerability has won her education, connections and power, it has also fueled her escalating alcoholism. The author articulates the most damaging effects–a preference for fantasy over reality and a need to push others away–persuasively and without fanfare. After a mawkish, turgid opening visit between father and daughter, Taylor’s debut, though riddled with spelling and punctuation hiccups, moves with unexpected freshness through the events leading to Noble’s second trial. A pro bono case Gilly takes for a family friend leads her to a long-lost wayward brother, whose trial and execution both draws Gilly’s extended family together and pushes her to reveal the secret that will set her father–and herself–free. In her focus on the love between adult children and parents and on interracial love and rape, in her skillful release of a series of family revelations, and in her nimble movement through the strata of contemporary African-American life, the author covers much the same ground as Alice Randall in her recent Pushkin and the Queen of Spades (2004). Taylor, however, offers punchier dialogue and more suspense, albeit amidst less accomplished prose.
An affecting if uneven debut.