A plot-driven first from Canadian Lansens strains to affirm love and redemption as an ailing slave-descendant becomes guardian of a mixed-race child.
The story explores the lives of those Canadian blacks whose ancestors fled north during the American Revolution or by way of the Underground Railroad. Addy Shadd, who grew up in Rusholme, a town settled by fugitive slaves, must now survive not only racism but additional story-demanded tragedies and sorrows in a tale that makes her victim less of character than of plot. The story moves between past and present as Addy relates how the white woman Collette Depuis asks her care for her five-year-old daughter Sharla for the summer. Addy lives in a mobile home in the black section of a trailer park, and when the grubby and unkempt Sharla arrives with neither baggage nor the money Collette promised, Addy sees that the girl is of mixed race, though Sharla has no idea who her father is. Collette vanishes, and, touched by Sharla’s plight, the 80-year-old Addy sets out to raise her as memories of her own childhood and past come back to her. She recalls her first love, the death of her only brother, and her rape, when she was 15, by her father’s bootlegging associate. When her pregnancy began showing and she was locked out of the house, she fled to Detroit, where a black family took her in. She describes now how the baby died at birth; how she moved to nearby Chatham and married Mose, a porter; bore a daughter who died with Mose in a railway accident; and the lonely years that followed. With Addy’s health now failing rapidly, she and Sharla both find redemption and closure when they finally make it back to Rusholme (as in Rush Home Road).
Brimming over with good intentions, but a relentlessly churning plot makes for an unconvincing ride.