A NovelBook - 2018
In the aftermath of a devastating tornado that rips through the town of Tupelo, Mississippi, at the height of the Great Depression, two women worlds apart--one black, one white; one a great-grandmother, the other a teenager--fight for their families' survival in this lyrical and powerful novel with the emotional impact of the works of Jesmyn Ward, Christina Baker Kline, Jayne Anne Phillips, and Sue Monk Kidd.
A few minutes after 9 p.m. on Palm Sunday, April 5, 1936, a massive funnel cloud flashing a giant fireball and roaring like a runaway train careened into the thriving cotton-mill town of Tupelo, in northeastern Mississippi. Measured as an F-5--the highest on the Fujita scale--the tornado killed more than 200 people, not counting an unknown number of black citizens, one-third of Tupelo's population, who were not included in the official casualty figures.
When the tornado hits, Dovey, a local laundress, is flung by the terrifying winds into a nearby lake. Bruised and nearly drowned, she makes her way across Tupelo to find her small family--her hardworking husband, Virgil, her clever sixteen-year-old granddaughter, Dreama, and Promise, Dreama's beautiful light-skinned three-month-old son.
Slowly navigating the broken streets of Tupelo, Dovey stops at the house of the despised McNabb family. Dovey hates Judge Mort McNabb, a powerful man who cannot control his eldest son, a violent and sadistic youth who has left his mark on Dovey's family, linking their fates. Inside, she discovers that the tornado has spared no one. The mother, Alice, a schoolteacher, is severely injured. The shell-shocked judge has gone to look for baby Tommy, blown from Alice's arms. And Jo, the McNabbs' dutiful teenage daughter, has suffered a terrible head wound. When Jo later discovers a baby in the wreckage, she is certain that she's found her baby brother, Tommy, and vows to protect him.
During the harrowing hours and days of the chaos that follows, Jo and Dovey will struggle to navigate a landscape of disaster and to battle both the demons and the history that link and haunt them. Drawing on historical events, Minrose Gwin beautifully imagines natural and human destruction in the deep South of the 1930s through the experiences of two remarkable women whose lives are indelibly connected by forces beyond their control. A story of loss, hope, despair, grit, courage, and race, Promise reminds us of the transformative power and promise that come from confronting our most troubled relations with one another.