Night Talk

Elizabeth Cox, Author
Elizabeth Cox, Author Graywolf Press $23.95 (280p) ISBN 978-1-55597-267-7
Reviewed on: 09/01/1997
Release date: 09/01/1997
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-312-19516-8
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The history of racial conflict during the 1950s is reenacted on a personal scale by two adolescent girls in this sincere but sometimes unconvincing reminder of turbulent times. In 1949, white research biologist August Bell leaves his family in Mercy, Ga., ostensibly to pursue his research on the Sea of Cortez. Volusia Davis, a black domestic, moves into the house with Bell's wife, Agnes, and children, accompanied by her daughter, Janey Louise. The friendship between Janey Louise and Agnes's daughter, Evie, is the focus of the story. Between the young girls' ""night talks"" in their shared bedroom and Evie's letters to August, the civil rights drama of the ensuing decade unfolds: Janey Louise's brother returns from Korea a militant; Janey Louise desegregates the high school and is raped by a white man. As adults, Evie and Janey Louise reunite for Volusia's funeral and struggle to overcome the ugliness of their mutual past. Despite a jarring murder late in the book (and an occasional disregard for the actual obstacles that kept middle-class black and white girls from forming close friendships under Jim Crow), Cox (The Ragged Way People Fall in Love) uses gracefully simple, affecting prose in a bittersweet portrayal of a tumultuous era. (Oct.)
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