From Publishers Weekly
Appealing characters overpopulate Trice's (Only Twice I've Wished for Heaven) solid but top-heavy second novel. Each year in August, the small African-American town of Halley's Landing holds a festival to commemorate the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. As longtime resident "Aunt" Cora Hoskins begins preparations in 1986, she is joined by Henry Gray and his wife, Thelma, whom Cora raised; Henry's sister Flossie Jo, who is coping with a divorce and is estranged from her pregnant teenage daughter, Sweet Alma; and May Ruth Morgan, an eccentric white woman who visits Cora each year to attend the festival. Sadly, this year's events also cause the celebrants to recall the untimely death of Flossie Jo's son, 11-year-old El, the year before: That tragedy is set in motion when a seedy visitor to town who calls himself Mr. Paul is unable to find a room, and is invited to stay with Cora. Befriended by El and his 16-year-old cousin Pepper, Mr. Paul betrays the family's trust with a heinous act. The episode deeply unnerves El, whose plan to punish the man goes awry, resulting in the fatal accident. Unable to forgive himself for his imagined complicity in El's death, Pepper's behavior becomes erratic and he lands in jail. Flossie Jo knows her absolution will assuage Pepper's guilt, but first she must contend with her daughter and resolve their dispute. More will happen before the festival closes, but at its end all are left with a sense of peace and relief. Each of the characters is well delineated, with interesting foibles and strengths, but the novel is too short to do justice to their stories; it feels uncomfortably dense with incidents, encounters and conversations. A streamlined cast and sharper focus would have strengthened this otherwise promising tale. 4-city author tour. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
In Halley's Landing, a small Illinois town, the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation has been celebrated on August 8 since the late 1880s. The festival is one of the grandest in the Midwest. Yet each year, along with the good times, there are painful memories, heartfelt confessions, and dark secrets. In 1986, the community has gathered to celebrate another festival one year after the unfortunate death of a young boy. Among the great cast are Aunt Cora, the outspoken family elder who provides refuge for those in need; Thelma, the wife, mother, and sister who has compassion yet difficulty dealing with others; Herbert, Thelma's husband; May Ruth, the older woman who visits year after year; Flossie, the unpredictable sister-in-law; and Sweet Alma, Flossie's daughter. What brings them back to Halley's Landing for this celebration is special and unique for each one of the characters; their past and perspective add flavor to the celebration and to their gathering. Trice's second novel, after the successful Only Twice I've Wished for Heaven (1997), will assuredly have commercial success. Lillian Lewis
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