From Publishers Weekly
Perry's haunting, impressive Stigmata (1998) told of a girl, Lizzie, institutionalized for her dangerous paranormal connection to her great-great-grandmother; her second novel reveals a similarly troubled relationship between Lizzie's grandmother, Grace, and the same spirit. In 1915, in Johnson Creek, Ala., 15-year-old Grace watches out for her two younger sisters, Mary Nell and Eva, whom folks say have second sight. Parents Frank (a Creek Indian) and Joy (daughter of a former slave) Mobley discourage such talk: their aspirations for their daughters involve good marriages and careers, not "hoodoo." Grace's own paranormal powers become apparent when she finds her grandmother Bessie's diary. She experiences a terrifying vision as she reads how Bessie came from Africa as a girl named Ayo, chained in the filthy bilge of a slave ship. As the years pass, the visitations-and their sometimes physical effects, like scars on Grace's wrist from a slave ship's manacles-continue. In 1921, Eva, barely 13, is raped by Mary Nell's ne'er-do-well husband, Lou Henry-an event that Mary Nell "sees" while sitting in church. Torn by conflicting loyalties and shamed that she remains barren while Eva carries the child she desperately wants, Mary Nell follows Eva and Grace to Tuskegee and steals Eva's infant son. Three years later, Mary Nell returns to Johnson Creek to raise the boy as her own. The novel's final section-spanning 1925-1963 in a series of truncated episodes-brings the younger sisters together again as troubled Grace forges her own path far away. Perry's novel repeats itself (and hearkens too much to its predecessor), but it's an absorbing read, a portrait of hard lives bravely lived.
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This is the second novel from Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper editor Perry, and it is a prequel to her first, Stigmata
(1998). In Johnson Creek, Alabama, in 1915, Grace, Mary Nell, and Eva Mobley appear to have inherited the gift of second sight from their grandmother, a former slave from Africa. Because their mother, Joy, disapproves of their special ability and prizes fitting into the community above all other values, they are left to struggle with the aftereffects of their often gruesome visions, with no ability to process them correctly or to act upon the knowledge gleaned from them. Mary Nell and Eva, especially, seem to have an almost telepathic relationship. But over the next 40 years, the three women are nearly destroyed by their gift. With distinctive dialogue, evocative prose, and themes that encompass the legacy of slavery and the importance of connecting with the past, Perry continues to spin the mesmerizing story of the Mobley family. Joanne WilkinsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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