Jessica Maria Tuccelli. Viking, $25.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-670-02331-8
In Tuccelli’s sweeping debut, mothers and daughters are fiercely tethered over six generations and beyond death. The novel, which spans the years 1836–1941, follows the female descendants of pioneer Solomon Bounds, whose family tree is crowded with slave owners and slaves, Native Americans, and the soldiers who drove them from their lands. After the home she shares with her mother, Mia, is vandalized on the eve of a civil rights protest in Washington, D.C., the youngest of Bounds’s kin, great-great-great-great-granddaughter Ella McGee, 11, journeys to her uncle’s home in Hopewell, Ga. On the way, she gets lost and lands in the care of Willie Mae, an elderly mystic and the wife of Bounds’s grandnephew. Meanwhile, Mia frantically searches for her daughter in Hopewell and finds a county whose rural idyll has been ravaged by the treacheries of slaveholders and the KKK. In intersecting narratives, Willa Mae, Mia, and Ella recount brutal traumas that gave them access to a magical spirit world of female ancestors. This elaborately woven plot serves the story well, peppering the novel with moments of lingering beauty and shocking violence. Though Tuccelli dances close to stereotypes of maternal piety, the complexity of her ghosts and her protagonists’ folksy charm help stave off sentimentality. Agent: ICM. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 11/21/2011
Release date: 03/15/2012
Genre: Fiction
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