I have to admit that novels based in the Deep South of America always hold a fascination for me as they evoke, usually, deep seated tensions that remain from a divisive history. With that in mind, Kelly Rodgers’ book is typical as there is racism and prejudice here, it being set mainly at the start of the twentieth century, when segregation was prevalent and coloured people were still considered lesser citizens by many white folk, including politicians.
Rodgers’ book, however, brings this period alive by taking this tense climate and the potential for these prejudices to be conquered, and centring her book on a real life family, the Herndons of Atlanta, Georgia, using their lives and her imagining of those lives as a frame for her narrative. In the process, she has created a truly unique story that I thoroughly enjoyed.
This novel is very well-written. Rodgers chooses to have her narrative told from different character viewpoints, although the main perspectives, related in the third person, are those of Effie, Alonzo, Fern and Nora. She also chooses to have their stories told in a non-linear way, which could make the novel a difficult read but it is not; in fact, quite the opposite as I found it very easy to follow and read and became fully immersed in the story.
When Effie becomes a nurse at a sanitarium, she soon discovers that its purpose is not solely as a place for healing: not at all. Her father, Alonzo, has reservations about her employment there but supports her decision to move to Milledgeville to pursue her vocation. Whilst there, Effie quickly encounters Fern who is neither patient nor employee at the sanitarium but is part of it in her own unique way. Nora is Fern’s mother who has her own story to tell about how she came to be at the sanitarium.
There are many stories contained in this novel and Rodgers does well to ensure that they interweave in a way that is seamless. Her characters are well-drawn and the personalities of all the main people of the book are distinctive and brought alive through lively and realistic dialogue and their actions during the book. The plot is paced well and leads to a climax that, if not wholly surprising, is completely satisfying for the end of the novel.
A really good read.
This review was first published on Reedsy Discovery where I was privileged to read it as an ARC.https://reedsy.com/discovery/book/the-truth-together-kelly-rodgers#review