In the wake of the Civil War, a woman’s forbidden romance has life-shattering consequences.
Eleanor “Maitie” Maitland Forrester is born and raised in the Piedmont Carolinas in the tumultuous second half of the 19th century. She’s a daughter in a prominent Southern family, and finding a proper suitor was never going to be easy for her—her father and brother are unforgiving gatekeepers of her virtue, and her forceful manner often seems to intimidate men. After her first love, Burrington Alexander Nash, dies of yellow fever, Maitie throws herself into teaching literature. But at 24—“spinster” age for a woman in 1877—she meets John Deloach, a talented and handsome carpenter, and she’s immediately taken with him. However, Maitie’s father, Rollins, is vehemently opposed to her coupling with a “no ’count from the Low Country that we know nothing about.” He’s incensed when he discovers that John lied about his military service during the Civil War; when John was only 14 years old, he deserted the Confederate Army. Overall, debut author Grant paints a powerfully evocative picture of the South during the War Between the States and the Reconstruction period that followed it, and he deftly limns the social hierarchies at the heart of the area’s culture. He chronicles the ramifications of Maitie’s defiance of her father from her perspective as well from Laodicea “Deecee” Alston’s, who was once Maitie’s slave and remained her servant and companion. The story is related by a narrator who’s only identified by Deecee as “Mistah G”; he’s married to a relative of Maitie’s, and he becomes the latter’s confidant at the end of her life, the “Shahryar to her Scheherazade.” The plot that he reveals is simply riveting; Maitie’s version of what happened to John is remarkable, and Deecee’s is even more so, painting a picture that’s simultaneously heartbreaking and endearing. The narrator, too, plays an intriguing central role as the “the guardian of a story too terrible to consign to the lighthearted arena of family anecdote.”
An unforgettable story that hauntingly captures the American South during its most turbulent era.