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Bloodroot: A Novel Hardcover – October 10, 2000
The Amazon Book Review
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From Publishers Weekly
The real-life murder of a small-town sheriff by the middle-aged black caretaker of a Virginia estate in 1936 serves as the inspiration for Even's rather listless debut novel, winner of the 1999-2000 AWP-Thomas Dunne Books Award. The title refers to a flower, native to Virginia, that bleeds from the roots when cut from its soil; the same fate threatens to befall William Wesley and his sister, Cora, who have been the estate's sole caretakers for many years and now are being forced to leave their land to make room for a new turpentine plant. Although their legal claim to the property is tenuous at best (the owner's widow, Mrs. Peers, left it to them on her deathbed), Wesley and Cora have continually refused the county's offers to buy the holding. Elsa Childs, the young government representative, fails to convince the siblings to sell, and as the stakes grow higher, and Wesley and Cora hire a (shady) attorney to take their case, it is only a matter of time before the law intervenes. The author succeeds only intermittently in building dramatic tension toward that climactic standoff. Wesley's tales of life with the Peers and his previous job stripping pines paint a picture of a man quietly smoldering under repeated humiliation. ("All my life," he tells Elsa during one of their confrontations, "every time I thought something was mine, a white man came and took it.") But at every turn the story is bogged down with wooden dialogue and overdetermined scenes. Wesley is bound to lose his battle with the government, but his steely determination is compelling, and his voice is the only one to approach true distinction. The other characters hereACora, her boyfriend TJ, Sheriff Montgomery, Elsa's father and even Elsa herselfAserve as little more than foils. (Oct.) FYI: The craft of turpentining is central to another current novel, Josephine Humphreys's Nowhere Else on Earth.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Based on a true event, this debut novel recounts the racial tensions and social mores of a Virginia town in the 1930s when a black caretaker and his sister resist efforts to move them from their property to make way for a turpentine factory. Elsa Childs, the daughter of the local banker, is the young white woman dispatched to begin the process of removing William and Cora Wesley from land they've inherited after loyal service to a wealthy, lonely white woman. Elsa comes to resent the Wesleys, uncooperative parties in her effort to soothingly deprive them of their rights. She eventually finds herself in the position of so many white women before her, providing the excuse for a white mob to set upon black people. William and Cora, steadfast in their determination after years of living with uncertainty and indignity, pay a high price for taking a stand for their rights. This is an evocative novel of finely drawn characters that explores the dangerous undercurrents and complexities of racial attitudes. Vanessa Bush
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