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An amiable family saga set on a plantation in the Old and New South—replete with lust, theft, miscegenation, snobbery, betrayal, and many other traditional family values—by North Carolina novelist Peacock (Life Without Water, 1996). It’s almost natural to expect old houses to be haunted, especially grand old houses and most especially in the South. Roseberry, the Redd family plantation in North Carolina, is not quite baroque enough to make the Snopeses feel at home, but it has its secrets and it hides them pretty well from the outside world. China Redd, the family housekeeper, seems to know them better than anyone. She’s a direct descendant of Cally Redd, a black slave who bore the son of Roseberry’s white owner Jennis Redd. When Jennis’s jealous wife has Cally’s son sold off the plantation while he’s still a young boy, Cally steals a pair of abalone earrings from Mrs. Redd in revenge. The earrings are secretly passed down from one generation to the next and become a kind of totem of independence for the (black) Redd family, asserting their secret autonomy from their white master in the big house across the road. Three generations after Cally, China Redd works at Roseberry, cleaning and cooking for white people who are actually distant cousins of hers. By the time she’s an old woman, the plantation is owned by solitary Coyle Redd, a lonely bachelor who despised his abusive and hates the home he grew up in. Coyle puts Roseberry up for auction and buys himself a Winnebago, thereby ending the history of the Redds of Roseberry once and for all—or so he supposes. But China is still in the house across the road, and the abalone earrings has passed on to her new granddaughter, Cally Redd. Not as sentimental as it could have been, Peacock’s saga is actually a fascinating, carefully drawn portrait of life across five generations, full of personality and told with genuine vigor.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 1-56352-509-7
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Longstreet
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1999