cover image When the Moon Turns Blue

When the Moon Turns Blue

Pamela Terry. Ballantine, $28.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-593-35920-4

Terry (The Sweet Taste of Muscadines) returns to Wesleyan, Ga., for this uneven sophomore outing about racism, white guilt, and Confederate statues. Friends Marietta Cline and Butter Swan, both in their 60s, reunite at Marietta’s husband’s funeral after three years of estrangement that began when Marietta, daughter of white liberal newspaperman Logan Hargis, heard a racist comment from Butter and called her “crass.” At the funeral luncheon, Marietta’s sister-in-law, Glinda, publicly humiliates her husband, Marietta’s older brother Macon, after hearing enough of him pontificate over the right of his client to keep a Confederate monument erected in a park on land he owns. After someone pulls down the statue, the police investigate, and a shocking act of violence forces Marietta to confront her strained relationship with Macon and assess how her liberal politics have impacted her personal life. Terry is strongest when illuminating the ties among Marietta, Butter, Glinda, and Macon, but incorporating a Confederate statue controversy as a plot device to solve the white characters’ problems comes across as tone-deaf, especially given the lack of Black characters in the book. Readers might want to take a pass. Agent: Kimberly Whalen, Whalen Agency. (Feb.)