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Book review – Page from a Tennessee Journal September 13, 2010

Posted by mplibrary in Reviews.
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Howard, Francine Thomas. Page from a Tennessee Journal. Las Vegas: AmazonEncore, 2010. 275 pages. ISBN-13: 978-0-98255-506-4.

In Page from a Tennessee Journal, Francine Thomas Howard does an exceptional job depicting a period in American history wherein African-Americans living in the South traveled northward in a movement known as “The Great Migration”. She personalizes this era by supplying the reader with a well told tale of two families living in rural Tennessee circa 1913, one black and one white, and the events that ultimately resulted in cataclysmic, life-altering changes for both. By the author’s own admission, her debut novel was inspired by family secrets.

The story revolves around a farm that is at once rather humble while being large enough for sharecropping. In a fast moving plot, when white farmer Alexander McNaughton falls in love with black sharecropper Annalaura Welles, it is apparent to the reader that things are not going to end well; surprises abound, from the reactions of Alex’s very practical wife, Eula Mae, to the actions of the long absent husband, John Welles, upon his return. One is horrified by the brutality and indifference towards women, especially black women, but heartened by their strength and resourcefulness as portrayed in the well-drawn characters of Annalaura and eventually, the white woman, Eula Mae. As the story reaches its climax, one can feel the momentum. The style in which Howard handles this breakneck action with love, revenge, and pride all taking roles, is a portent of her ability to write more good novels in the future. Certainly, the ending is the right one, and is begging for a sequel!

Sandra C. Clariday, Associate Dean, Tennessee Wesleyan College

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