cover image LEMON CITY


Elaine Meryl Brown, . . Strivers Row, $12.95 (272pp) ISBN 978-0-8129-7033-3

Set in Lemon City, an isolated town in the foothills of Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains settled by freed slaves before the Civil War, Brown's inspiring, slyly amusing novel marks the debut of a welcome new voice in African-American fiction. On Thanksgiving Day, 1973, the entire Dunlap family, including Granddaddy, his wife, Nana, and granddaughter Faye, are under house arrest pending the sheriff's investigation into the murder of Harry Lee Thompson, Faye's estranged husband. ("As Faye stared at the turkey, it reminded her of the last time she saw Harry, flat on his back on their living room floor with his stomach distended and a tomato lodged in his mouth.") The year before, Faye broke Lemon City's "Outsider Rule" by wedding Harry, a dubious character with "few roots" whom she met at college. Harry's mysterious death sets the stage for the main story, Faye's campaign to leave Lemon City. She's drawn to the North by the Civil Rights movement and a desire to contribute to her people's advancement. In the end, Faye recognizes the power of dreams and the need to see the world with clear eyes. Agent, Victoria Sanders. (Aug. 3)

Forecast: With its reader's guide at the back, this uplifting tale is perfect for book groups. Brown's TV connections—she's v-p of special markets at HBO—can't hurt.