The elegantly crafted second novel from Perkins-Valdez (after Wench) captures the fierce energy, diversity, and suffering of Civil War–era Chicago. At its heart are three strangers—two black, one white—whose lives intersect after each arrives in their new hometown. Expecting to join her new husband in Chicago, Sadie Walker discovers that his sudden death has left her a wealthy widow. Her mourning is brief—her father arranged the unwelcome marriage—but then the voice of a recently slain Union soldier invades her mind. She uses his intercession to offer séances for the bereaved, hiring a freed black woman named Madge as a servant. Descended from a line of skilled female herbalists, Madge is a gifted healer raised by an unloving mother and aunts. At one of Sadie's séances she meets Hemp Harrison, a freed slave seeking his wife, Annie, who was sold to another owner before abolition. Though Madge and Hemp share a powerful attraction, Annie's unknown fate and the emotional scars from Madge's Tennessee childhood keep them apart. Perkins-Valdez moves gracefully among her three protagonists' viewpoints as they struggle to claim their authentic gifts and free themselves of the pain of their pasts. Her spare, lyrical voice is unsentimental yet compassionate, echoing Madge's belief that "in a land so devastated by death, the best healing balm is hope." (May)
Reviewed on: 05/04/2015 Release date: 05/01/2015 Genre: Fiction
During the Covid-19 crisis, Publishers Weekly is providing free digital access to our magazine, archive, and website. To receive the access to the latest issue delivered to your inbox free each week, enter your email below.