From Publishers Weekly
McFadden, in her powerful seventh novel, tells the story of Easter Bartlett as she journeys from the violent Jim Crow South to the promise of the Harlem Renaissance and the civil rights movement. Along the way, Easter forms relationships with both products of McFadden's imagination and actual historical figures: Rain, the sensuous and passionate dancer in Slocum's Traveling Brigade, a troupe that traveled the backwoods entertaining negroes; Colin, Easter's husband, who is provoked by a duplicitous friend into assassinating the Universal Negro Improvement Association leader, Marcus Garvey; Meredith, Easter's untrustworthy benefactor; and many more, including poet Langston Hughes, pianist Fats Waller, and shipping heiress Nancy Cunard. McFadden (Sugar
) weaves rich historical detail with Easter's struggle to find peace in a racially polarized country, and she brings Harlem to astounding life: The air up there, up south, up in Harlem, was sticky sweet and peppered with perfume, sweat, sex, curry, salt meat, sautéed chicken livers, and fresh baked breads. Easter's hope for love to overthrow hate—and her intense exposure to both—cogently stands for America's potential, and McFadden's novel is a triumphant portrayal of the ongoing quest. (May)
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After her sister’s rape and her mother’s death of a broken heart, Easter walked away from Waycross, Georgia, and spent most of the rest of her life trying to walk away from pain and hate. She’d witnessed a lynching, joined a traveling vaudeville show, and fallen in love with a heartless woman, before she eventually ended up in Harlem just on the brink of its renaissance. She is there when Marcus Garvey is enthralling crowds of black folks longing for a respite from racism in America, including her West Indian–born husband, and when striving writers are finding white benefactors. She joins in the ebb and flow of life in Harlem, rising and falling, sorting out her emotions and the sundry heartaches of life in her writing, until she is caught in a scandal that ends the glorious if unstructured life she has been living. McFadden interweaves fiction with the historic period of the Harlem Renaissance in this novel about a woman’s struggle against hate and disappointment. --Vanessa Bush