A forbidden interracial attraction spans decades of secret involvement and some surprising attachments to reach a place of forgiveness.
Experience tells Beatrice Dobbins that, in pre–civil rights America, no good will come of a friendship between herself and a married white man. Yet there’s an undeniable attraction between Beatrice and Morris Sullivan, the sailor whose life Beatrice’s brother, Robert, saved during the Pearl Harbor attack in December 1941. Robert was killed later in the raid, and Morris wrote Beatrice a letter of condolence, the beginning of a long correspondence between the black trainee teacher—originally from Mississippi—and the husband of Agnes and father of Emma, all living in Boston. Friends, family and Beatrice’s own sense of rectitude keep the couple apart for 15 years, but in the 1960s, they meet again, and their love is declared and consummated. In her second book, Marlow (Color Me Butterfly, 2007) displays an emotional sensitivity that lends heart to her story, but there’s a tendency toward melodrama and some tiring vacillation among the characters, especially the undercharacterized Morris, who moves back and forth between the needs of his two different families, seemingly unable to choose between them. The passing of the years brings shocks, achievements and unexpected late reconciliation.
Extreme events, big issues and complicated feelings are sometimes beyond the scope of this overlong, simply told tale, but Marlow deftly tugs the heartstrings throughout.