IN THE FALL by Jeffrey Lent


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Family history as a double helix of white and black reaching back across three troubled generations: a densely layered saga

and remarkable debut.

At the end of the Civil War, Vermonter Norman Pelham lies wounded in a Virginia field until he’s revived by the

green-eyed African-American girl Leah, and between the two more than a spark of attraction is kindled. They walk back to his

family farm together, arriving as husband and wife, and begin a life there secure in their love but knowing that not everyone

looks favorably on their union. In time, three children are born, two daughters first, then, much later, a son, but Leah’s past

comes back to haunt her. Before meeting Norman, when she fled North Carolina and the teenaged son of her owner/father,

whom she thought she’d killed as he attempted to rape her, she also left her mother behind. Now, years of not knowing what

happened to her force Leah to go home. She returns to Vermont in less than a week, silent and grim, and shortly thereafter

hangs herself in Norman's woods, taking her secret with her. Jamie, her five-year-old son, grows up having to endure taunts

about his heritage and his mother and, embittered, leaves the farm at the first opportunity, making a place for himself in the

resorts of the White Mountains as a bar manager and supplier of moonshine. But when Prohibition raises the stakes, organized

competition first toys with him, then takes him for a one-way ride. He leaves behind 16-year-old Foster, lover of bird dogs,

who discovers letters written to Jamie from his sisters back in Vermont, and, when Foster visits them, learns the secret of his

blood, then finally, in North Carolina, comes to see the root of the evil that drove his grandmother to take her life.

Skillfully handled, each generation having its own clear voice and time. A marvelous and provocative piece of American

Pub Date: April 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-87113-765-8
Page count: 560pp
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2000


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