It’s 1935. As a monstrous hurricane bears down on the Florida Keys, black and white residents and a group of World War I veterans building a bridge must face not only the truth of nature’s cruelty, but also of man’s.
In Lafaye’s debut novel, she explores Depression-era Florida, following the relationships among Missy, a self-educated African-American nanny; Nelson and Hilda Kincaid, the richest, and most unhappy, white couple in town; Henry, a veteran who has just returned home to work after 18 years away; Dwayne, the town sheriff; and Selma, Henry’s sister , who has the power to invoke supernatural forces. During the annual town barbecue, tension between black and white residents boils over, and Hilda is beaten nearly to death. Soon the hurricane comes to wipe the slate clean. Lafaye’s novel is based on true circumstances, a fact she drives home in an opening historical note. This matters less than she thinks, because the novel is rooted in human relationships, with the hurricane serving more as symbol than climax to the plot. The characters are flawed and interesting, and the descriptions of place and culture are colorful. But somehow the novel fails to achieve any great depth or pathos until the very end, when Lafaye enumerates the lives lost during the storm. This is only a problem because it seems that Lafaye wants this to be more, a story of our nation’s racism and the scars it left behind. But the true focus is on individuals and their struggles; the book fails to transcend and become universal commentary.
Character-driven drama that, while it doesn't offer any new insights into our country’s racist past, explores a unique setting.