In the years following the Civil War, Mariah Reddick, former slave to Carrie McGavock--the "Widow of the South"--has quietly built a new life for herself as a midwife to the women of Franklin, Tennessee. Read more...
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In the years following the Civil War, Mariah Reddick, former slave to Carrie McGavock--the "Widow of the South"--has quietly built a new life for herself as a midwife to the women of Franklin, Tennessee. But when her ambitious, politically minded grown son, Theopolis, is murdered, Mariah--no stranger to loss--finds her world once more breaking apart. How could this happen? Who wanted him dead?
Mariah's journey to uncover the truth leads her to unexpected people--including George Tole, a recent arrival to town, fleeing a difficult past of his own--and forces her to confront the truths of her own past. Brimming with the vivid prose and historical research that has won Robert Hicks recognition as a "master storyteller" (San Francisco Chronicle).
- ISBN-13: 9780446581769
- ISBN-10: 0446581763
- Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
- Publish Date: September 2016
- Page Count: 320
- Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-07-25
- Reviewer: Staff
Hicks’s (The Widow of the South) latest yarn opens two years after the end of the Civil War, focusing on freed slave Mariah Reddick, a trusted and sought-after midwife in Franklin, Tenn. Mariah now has a grown son, Theopolis, a cobbler with political aspirations. Mariah becomes acquainted with George Tole, a free black New Yorker whose reputation as a sharp-shooting assassin precedes him to Franklin. But George has been coerced by an evil Franklin magistrate, Elijah Dixon, to do his bidding, and when a political rally at which Theopolis tries to take the stage becomes violent, the young man is killed—but it’s not clear who killed him. The lives of Mariah and George converge as Mariah seeks retribution and George seeks redemption, each playing a major role in unmasking the latent nastiness among the deeply prejudiced Franklin citizenry. Hicks is a talented storyteller, and this story moves at a clip, but it feels deliberate and inorganic, his characters sometimes seemingly just vehicles moving the story forward. Mariah has lost her only son, yet she shows an unbelievable lack of emotion. The bad guys, while compelling, are amusing caricatures. Only George seems truly flesh and blood, and is the most memorable character. Agent: Jeff Kleinman, Folio Literary. (Sept.)
A mother's quest for justice during Reconstruction
Robert Hicks’ sequel to his highly acclaimed Civil War novel The Widow of the South (2005) is a gripping tale of one strong and courageous woman’s quest to find those responsible for the murder of her only child.
Mariah Reddick had been a slave to Carrie McGavock—the widow in Hicks’ previous novel—since their childhoods. Now it’s the summer of 1867, and Mariah, also a widow, has her own small house in Franklin, Tennessee, near the dilapidated plantation where Carrie still lives. Renowned for her skill as a midwife, Mariah is thought of as “the mother of everyone in Franklin.”
Her son, Theopolis, born into slavery but now a respected member of the Colored League and frequent speaker at political rallies, is beaten and then shot at a rally that turns into a riot just after the novel opens. What should she call herself now, Mariah wonders, for it seems there is no word for the mother “left alone by the death of her only child.” She vows to “not go forward quietly,” but to fight to discover who was involved in the death of her son.
Not surprisingly, the white witnesses are not talking, but Mariah gradually speaks to as many blacks as she can find who were there that day, or who knew someone who was there, or who overheard snippets of conversations among the whites at work or in the local bars. She’s aided in her search for justice by George Tole, a lively character, new to town, who becomes an ally and confidant. When Mariah learns an investigative tribunal is coming from Nashville to look into the riot, she is fearful they won’t do anything at all. But she’s determined to at least make her case before them.
The Orphan Mother resonates with readers on many levels—as a compelling novel documenting the violent years of Reconstruction, as a heartfelt story of the inner strengths unearthed by a mother confronted with unspeakable sorrow, and as a memorable testament to friendships between young and old, male and female, black and white. The latter offers perhaps a ray of hope in these times of racial injustice we readers are still experiencing, 150 years after the events of this gripping and timely novel.