At first Cassie Logan and her brothers, a year or so older than they were in the much briefer, Song of the Trees, (1975) are only dimly aware of rumors that two men have been killed and one badly burned by a white mob.
Then Mary, their mother, tries to organize a boycott against the Wallaces, the local storeowners and instigators of the violence, and Logan land and lives are put on the line. Cassie's own spirit is demonstrated straight off, on the first day of the school year, when she refuses to accept a schoolbook labeled "condition--very poor, race of student--nigra." Like her parents, Cassie learns that she must pick her shots carefully to survive, and she takes pains to learn a few blackmail-level secrets from her special tormentor, Miz Lillian Jean, before giving the older girl a good thrashing. Tragically though, brother Stacey's friend T.J. who isn't so careful, starts hanging around with the Wallace boys and winds up facing a lynch mob after they talk him into helping them rob a store. Although the Logans, whose ownership of desirable farmland has made them a target of white persecution, live in a virtual state of siege, and even after Papa sets fire to his own cotton to divert the attention of the mob from T.J., the story ends unmelodramatically not far from where it began--after a string of hard-fought victories and as many bitter defeats and with the money for the next tax payment on the land still not in sight.
Taylor trusts to her material and doesn't try to inflate Cassie's role in these events, and though the strong, clear-headed Logan family is no doubt an idealization, their characters are drawn with quiet affection and their actions tempered with a keen sense of human fallibility.