Luck

Eric Martin, Author
Eric Martin, Author W. W. Norton & Company $23.95 (284p) ISBN 978-0-393-04912-1
Reviewed on: 07/31/2000
Release date: 08/01/2000
Paperback - 300 pages - 978-1-931561-93-8
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Migrant labor reform roils a close-knit community of Southern tobacco farmers in this tense and provocative examination of social issues. The Mexican migrant workers who toil on the tobacco plantations in Jackson County, N.C., are subjected to many abuses by landowners who stubbornly refuse to recognize that slavery has ended. Handsome 21-year-old Mike Olive, son of Cottesville's wealthiest tobacco farmer, Clayton Olive, spends a hellishly hot summer in his hometown with a team of fellow Duke University students assigned to document the economics, sociology and history of Mexican migrant labor. The team ultimately becomes active in a battle for human rights for the workers. As Mike begins to question his own family's complicity in the abuses, he falls in love with Hermelinda Salmeron, the strikingly beautiful 17-year-old daughter of a laborer at the Olive camp. One-time childhood friend Harvey Dickerson still resents Mike's family's inheritance of the rich farmland where the Olives and Dickersons used to work side by side. As the temperature rises above 100 degrees, rumors of Mike's relationship with a Mexican girl and the growing abuses at the Dickerson plantation create tension in the community. First-novelist Martin deftly chronicles the plight of the Mexican migrants and illuminates the barriers that thwart understanding between Southern landowners and workers. The luck that gives the book its title is certainly not all good, and Mike, Harvey and Hermelinda are caught up in the twists and turns of fortune. Retaliation against Mike's reforms comes in the guise of a suspicious fire and a vigilante's mail bomb, underscoring in its violence Martin's Faulknerian sense of twisted justice. Agent, Jennifer R. Walsh at the Writers Shop. (Aug.)
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