Tragedy befalls a small town in the 1950s Deep South when the Klu Klux Klan’s arrival coincides with an unraveling of long-held family secrets.
A suicide gunshot rattles the humid air in this bleak but often beautifully crafted tale of cultural strife in the Southern town of Melby. During one particularly sweltering summer, the Sayre family tries to cope with the stifling heat. Since the childhood death of his brother, farmer John Sayre has held a terrible secret, one that comes to bear on his marriage, his status in town and his relationship with his young son, Timothy. John’s inner demons lead him into an affair with college-educated Cicada Anderson, whose family joined the African-American exodus from a nearby town tormented by the Klan. At the same time, Tim, aka Buckshot, finds the body of a lynched man. While the lovers carry on late-night trysts, Frances Sayre fears her husband has taken up with the Klan, until she discovers what she takes to be a love letter. Her discovery, Buckshot’s secretiveness and the increasing boldness of the town’s bigots and its reprehensible minister all sit heavy in the uneasy, oppressive heat. The cicadas incessantly hum in ominous chorus. Everyone is being watched: suspicious townsmen spy John and Cicada, the gravedigger sees visitors to the lynched man’s grave, the mockingbirds eye the old family cat in the last hours of its life. The town’s animals, wild or domesticated, play as big a part as any of the well-drawn characters in the tragedy. Nature’s cruelty—and occasionally, its beauty—foreshadow and echo the townspeople’s wicked acts. Only beautiful Cicada remains a mystery. Like the female cicada, she causes the frenzied men to buzz and drone around her in hopes of attracting her bewitching affection.
Be sure to read this steamy Southern noir in the A/C.