Synopses & Reviews
In Francine Howard's stunning debut, Page from a Tennessee Journal, rural Tennessee of 1913 remains an unforgiving place for two couples - one black, the other white - who stumble against the rigid boundaries separating their worlds. When white farmer Alexander McNaughton falters into forbidden love with Annalaura Welles he discovers that he has much more to fear than the wrath of her returning gun-toting husband. Alexander's wife ? flinty and pragmatic Eula Mae ? wages her own battle against the stoicism demanded of white women of her time and social standing. Former sharecropper John Welles, flush with cash from his year's sojourn working the poker tables in the second best colored whorehouse in all of Nashville, wrestles with his devils as he struggles to assign blame for his wife's relationship with a white man. The convergence of the lives and choices of these fascinating characters ? made from fear, pride, determination, spite, nobility and revenge ?leads to a heart-pounding and heartbreaking climax that feels at once original, audacious and inevitable.
It is 1913, shortly before the start of the First World War, and Annalaura is alone again. Her gambling, womanizing husband has left the plot they sharecrop in rural Tennessee ? why or for how long she does not know. Without food or money and with her future tied to the fate of the season's tobacco crop, Annalaura struggles to raise her four children. When help comes in the form of an amorous landowner, who is she to turn it ? and him ? away?In this remarkable first novel, as bracingly original as it is exquisitely rendered, Francine Howard tells a moving story of American desire and ambition and the tragic, slippery boundaries of race under Jim Crow.?Based on a true family story, this haunting first novel admirably revisits a painful time in history. Too often historical novels about women indulge in anachronistic explorations of feminism, but this novel admirably avoids that trap and instead portrays realistic characters dealing with their difficult lot in life.? ? Booklist