What I’m Reading Now: The Water and the Blood

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Review from Amazon: Turner, the 2001 finalist for the Willa Cather Award (These Is My Words), mesmerizes once again with an East Texas period piece, starring a young heroine who struggles to escape her abusive mother and smalltown limitations. “We set fire to the Nigra church after the Junior-Senior Halloween costume party”: unknown to all but one in a motley group of high school friends, this apparently thoughtless act of vandalism in 1942 Sabine, Tex., hides a darker evil that will haunt them all. Philadelphia “Frosty” Summers was there that night, but the lonely girl whose impoverished family had moved seven times in two years said nothing, even though the congregation of that church, the Missionary Way Evangelicle [sic] Temple, had befriended and supported her. Sheriff John Moultrie’s efforts to identify the perpetrators, whose innocent “prank” obscures a murder, weave throughout this coming-of-age WWII tale. Narrator Frosty anchors this portrait of repressive Southern religious dogma, racial bigotry, poverty and cruel ignorance. After graduation, Frosty escapes the confines of Sabine by convincing her parents she must travel to southern California to work in a factory to help the war effort. While there she meets and falls in love with Gordon Benally, a Navajo Indian Marine radio operator who is recuperating from wounds received while a POW. Meanwhile, Marty Haliburton, who instigated the long-ago high school “prank,” is now the pastor of Frosty’s church in Sabine and a member of the KKK. When Frosty and Gordon visit her family, Gordon is judged “colored” and Marty and others try to kill him.

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