A politician’s widow rediscovers herself in the Deep South.
Dana Cleveland buries her cancer-stricken husband on the morning of 9/11, mere miles from the United 93 crash site. She’d been intending to leave Graham before he got sick, and now she decides to leave the location of her unhappy marriage; Pennsylvania, she tells a friend, “is where I unbecame.” In an unoriginal literary conceit, Dana returns to her deceased grandmother’s small hometown in Georgia to “pick up the threads.” There, she reconnects with Cassius Huston, an impressionable black man she barely knew when they worked together at the local grocery back in high school. The two fall quickly and incredulously in love. Burroway (Cutting Stone, 1992, etc.) has obvious literary chops, but there’s not enough plot to keep the pages turning. The 9/11 imagery punctuates the narrative in a morbid, useless way. The romance has a sweet but weak premise, and the obstacles to Cassius and Dana’s love tip toward melodramatic. When threatened by Cassius’s family, Dana (who is white) flees to Cassius’s estranged aunt in the Florida panhandle. Throughout her Southern venture, and while waiting around for the undependable Cassius to show up, Dana feels the black-white racial divide profoundly. Readers may feel that Barack Obama’s presidential victory somewhat weakens the novel’s major point: that overwhelming racism in the present-day United States prevents certain achievements. It’s also a problem that Dana’s ruminations, rather than compelling events, drive most of the story. It doesn’t help that she and Cassius are rather tired protagonists with thinly evoked personalities. Thankfully, they are surrounded by spunkier characters, including Dana’s sassy best friend and Cassius’s evil but spirited kin. Still, the drama arrives too late, and the ending feels too abrupt.
Neither excites nor inspires.