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 Lester (The Last Tales of Uncle Remus, 1994, etc.) offers a potentially controversial and intimate account of the life and death of a black civil rights leader as told 25 years later by the leader himself and the people who loved him. John Calvin Marshall--a fictional Martin Luther King Jr.- -speculates about the movement he led and its unintended consequences. Were the costs too high? As John grapples with this question, three casualties of the movement assess its cost to their own lives in an effort to free themselves from John's burdensome legacy: Andrea, the wife who resented his work during his lifetime and became a national symbol of it as his widow; Lisa Adams, John's white personal secretary and lover who lost everything when he died and she was thrust from the movement; and Bobby Card, the black organizer who sacrificed his youth and sanity for love of John. The three of them are reunited as Andrea lies dying of a stroke in a hospital in Nashville. Lisa leaves her mountain in Vermont to sit with the comatose Andrea and ask for forgiveness and perhaps for permission to move on. Amazingly, Andrea is able to give her both and, at the same time, free herself. In her turn, Lisa helps Bobby forgive himself for not hating whites enough, a terrible weakness in his mind. Lisa and Bobby leave each other with real hope for the future. The future of the movement is more doubtful, however, just as its past is ambiguous. The answer to John's original question is never stated explicitly, but perhaps hope can be found in the Andrea-Lisa-Bobby microcosm. Ultimately, however, Lester leaves John Calvin Marshall's question unanswered because it is unanswerable. A forceful and startling look into the minds and hearts of those involved in the civil rights movement, this novel raises compelling questions about the successes and failures of that movement.

Pub Date: June 27th, 1994
ISBN: 1-55970-258-3
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Arcade
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1994