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"Home in the Morning" by Mary Glickman

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“Home in the Morning” reminds us that an excellent fiction can come from a close observation of human lives caught in the swirl and tide of grand social upheaval. Against the backdrop of the civil rights movement in Mississippi in the 1960s, we encounter the lives of four people: two married couples, one white and one Negro. Their lives twine together, try to fray apart for a time, and begin to knit back up by novel’s end.

Jackson Sassaport, a Jewish lawyer who grows up in Guilford, a satellite town of Mississippi’s capital, Jackson, forms the focus of this sweeping fiction. He falls rather hard as a teen for Katherine Marie, the beautiful black girl his own age who works as a servant in his home. He understands his love cannot be requited, and he learns that Katherine Marie has also become the love-focus of Bokay Cooper, a powerfully-built and God-fearing local black teen. Jackson and Bokay go back a long way themselves, and Jackson swallows his passion and supports the two in their effort to make a life together. When Jackson goes away to Yale he meets and falls in love with Stella, the charismatic and strong-willed princess of a powerful Boston merchant family.

The energy and conflict derives from tumultuous race relations on the grand scale and from Jackson’s criminal younger brother on the small scale. Jackson’s brother, Bubba Ray, is rather derivative in my opinion: a spoiled, aggressive, lazy lout, who possesses and displays all the worst qualities of a bigoted Southern white. He commits the stereotypical proto-violence in the narrative, and this precipitates much if not all of the novel’s drama. Personal reactions to this violence border on overreaction in my view, but the resulting portraits wouldn’t be as clear or compelling without them.

These portraits are the book’s great strength. Jackson navigates his way through his life, barely keeping his women folk happy. Bokay Cooper morphs into the militant minister, Mombasa Cooper, victimized by his own following and his own folly. Stella and Katherine Marie, tied together by family, conflict, and political activism, stand together as the great striving duo, united at the end to everyone’s great relief and satisfaction, especially Jackson’s. Author Mary Glickman also instructs her readers in the cultural divide between the South, with its traditional manners, and “Yankeetown,” that generic Northern center of unheeding rudeness. The North is also shown as a hypocritical center of activism for civil rights, pursued from the safety of the rear echelon.

Read this book for the love that flows through it – it’s the love of an honest and wise author for her subject. It shows that the road of progress in race relations, with all its legal roadblocks and cultural landmines, can be followed to the promised land of harmony if the individuals are strong and determined enough.

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