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This inter-racial, inter-generational saga occurs in an Atlanta-like place called Belle City, and in its principal neighboring community, the fictionally named Carrie's Crossing. The book tells a story of love, loss and land—the stuff of the traditional Southern saga. What makes Belle City different is that it's a story told through the lives of Ruth Thatcher, who is Black, and Jonas Thatcher, who is white...and yes, they are related—in the way that Blacks, whites and Indians were related in that not-so-long-ago time and place—silently, secretly, and unacknowledged: If a truth isn't told out loud, and especially if it isn't lived out in the open, then it isn't...can't be...the truth.
The Belle City story is told in three parts:
PART ONE begins in Carrie's Crossing in 1917, on the eve of World War I, when Ruth and Jonas first meet as 12-year old farm children, and it ends in 1922 when Ruth's family makes a midnight run from Carrie's Crossing to Belle City, just ahead of a KKK attack led by Jonas's father.
PART TWO begins in 1926. Both Ruth and Jonas have lives and families—Jonas in Carrie's Crossing, Ruth in Belle City—that on the surface appear as separate as black and white but which are as connected as a shadow is to its human form. This section ends in 1945, as World War II ends and the foundation of a new order for the South is laid...even though the cement won't harden for a another two generations.
PART THREE jumps sixty years into the future, to 2005, when Ruth and Jonas die on the same day at 100 years of age, leaving startled descendants the task of unraveling and understanding their legacies.
The story alternates between Ruth's life and family in Belle City and Jonas's life and family in the newly wealthy and exclusive Carrie's Crossing. It is a distance of eight or ten geographical miles, but it is the vast and apparently endless chasm of race in America—then and now. Central to the Thatcher family saga is land. Indeed, land is central to telling the story of the South: Who had it, who stole it, who profited from it. Land and kin. It is a land dispute that split the Thatchers, forcing the Black Thatchers out of Carrie's Crossing and into Belle City, and it is a multi-million dollar land dispute a hundred years later that re-acquaints the Black and white sides of the family. Two gasp-producing wills and a century's worth of oral and written family history left by Ruth and Jonas tell the stories of the two families against the backdrop of two world wars, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, the Great Negro Migration, the Jazz Age, and into the new world of Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers, for whom the thickness of blood and the tight knots of kinship ties have little or no meaning. Belle City is a novel of fiction, but it is a story of truth.
Whitepoint Press, paperback, August 2014, ISBN: 9780989897129