A buried, early-19th-century diary, the fragrance of wild white roses and the rustling of river-cane reeds bring to life this refreshing debut novel by Miles, a winner of a MacArthur Fellowship (American Culture/Univ. of Michigan; The House on Diamond Hill, 2010, etc.).
Jennifer “Jinx” Micco, a Cherokee-Creek reporter for the Muscogee Nation News in Oklahoma, Cheyenne Cotterell, a wealthy interior designer and genealogy buff from Atlanta, and Ruth Mayes, a grief-stricken home-and-garden magazine writer from Minneapolis, investigate their possible ties to the Hold House, a Cherokee plantation in the North Georgia foothills once inhabited by Cherokee-Scottish Chief James Vann Hold, his two wives, his many children and his African-American slaves. Early in the novel, the pre–Trail of Tears history of Cherokee slaveholders and Christian missionaries overwhelms the narrative. But the pace picks up after Jinx and Cheyenne discover the 1815 diary belonging to missionary Anna Rosina Gamble, whose detailed account of her and her pastor husband’s establishment of a Moravian church on the plantation, along with her relationship with her favorite pupil, Mary Ann Battis, upends everything Jinx, Cheyenne and Ruth thought they knew about their heritage. Anna’s vibrant voice is the most dynamic in the novel: “Our hope of bringing the Gospel here has yet to find fertile ground. It looks very dark in this land.” And it’s through Anna’s entries that Miles’ keen understanding of Cherokee slave owners and the braided lineages of Cherokee Indians and African-Americans shines through.
An enchanting examination of bloodlines, legacy and the myriad branches of a diverse family tree.