An intricately woven story of love, race, and politics set in the 1960s.
In Mercurio’s debut novel, Mike Romano leaves the Marines in 1964 and returns to his old life in Charleston, South Carolina. He and his wife, Julie, are excited to leave their lives in dusty, noisy New York City, but their excitement drains when they see the rampant racism in the South—something they themselves are not victims of but are sickened by nonetheless. Mike begins to study and train to become an insurance salesperson and is assigned neighborhoods populated by the black and poor. A natural student, the former Marine hopes to soon rise in his career. But the job brings its own challenges as Mike confronts rampant, abject poverty. As he grows more successful at his job, he feels further pain at the plights of his customers, and he decides to make a difference. He shifts his focus to politics and joins the civil rights movement. The idealist campaigns for a political candidate who promises to bring hope and a brighter future to the oppressed. But as Mike moves further into the inner circle of politics, he is disappointed to see that even the people he trusts are liable to let him down and that the road to freedom is a lot more difficult than he had hoped. As the novel ruthlessly portrays the corruption in politics at the time of the civil rights movement, Mike and Julie’s story emerges as an affecting tale of civil disobedience. Told with humor and simple prose, this novel is not only a relatable work of fiction as it outlines the tribulations of family life, but also serves as a heroic tale of a man battling a war that he could avoid if he chose. The novel ably delves into common domestic disputes in addition to politics, and Mike and Julie, as well as their varied friends, emerge as likable and even admirable.
An affecting tale of a man’s immersion in the civil rights movement.