The story of an Alabama family is set against the history of the nation in this biographical novel.
Racie Boykin lives on the Boykin clan’s ancestral plantation in southern Alabama, heir to the legacy of her successful family. Reminiscing in the pre-dawn hours of a winter morning, she begins to write the story of her grandfather Frank Boykin. Like Winston Groom’s Forrest Gump–another Alabamian who made the most of the turbulent events around him–Frank weathered the political and economic turmoil of early-20th-century America, prospering in uneven times. He successfully led his family through the Reconstruction, the Depression and the racism of the South with a humility and intelligence that bestowed prominence on his family for generations. His range of business interests in Azalea, Ala. (a fictional city reminiscent of Mobile), include timber, farming, cattle and even Coca-Cola, the first in the state to sell it. His story is not only his own, but that of the whole country at the dawn of a new century. The book’s author is the thinly disguised narrator here and real-life successor to the Boykin clan, and her tales reflect that tenuous and complicated dynamic. The stories about Frank’s life and times meld reality and fiction, and readers unfamiliar with the history of Alabama may become curious about just which events are embellished. Also notable are Grace’s evocations of the Southern landscape. She writes about the woodlands and the coast around her with a familiar and loving ease. This alone is not enough to redeem the factual inconsistencies that pop up in the story, but if looking for a sweet, heartfelt read, Boykin’s is a safe choice.
A charming, though slightly disorienting, story that will delight Southern readers.