Fatal Promises
by Jeanette Henderson
Trafford Publishing

"He slapped Judy very hard across the face. He told her if she said anything about the kidnapping to the sheriff or anyone, he would kill her."

This is a book in the grand Southern tradition. It brings to mind such novels as William Faulkner’s The Sound And The Fury and William H. Armstrong’s Sounder. While it remains to be seen whether or not author Henderson ever reaches the literary heights of those masters, she definitely swings for the fences in this sweeping saga of love and laughter, pain and sorrow, and life in all its inexplicable twists and turns.

The story begins in the 1940s in Georgia. A young black man realizes there’s no future for him in his poverty-riddled community. He flees to New York in search of a better life, but he meets with a bitter end, and his progeny is forced to return to the South. Multiple stories then follow of individuals involved with his lineage. One relays the chronicle of a beautiful young woman beaten and raped by a cruel husband. She later finds love with an honorable man, but the fruits of their union are not without trial. One child becomes a preacher, another a prostitute. Murders ensue. Still more calamity is to come when two mulattos inherit a fortune from an old white landowner. Bigoted miscreants kidnap their child, and while it doesn’t end well for the criminals, the die is cast for revenge.

Henderson’s plot resembles a mighty river with tributaries that drift here and there, continually adding new players and cascading dynamics to her tale of intertwining lives. It’s impossible to read her opus without getting an acute sense of the terrible racism that pervaded so many relationships. Still, she is able to deliver a never-ending belief in hope—the kind of hope that knows no color, and whose light can never be extinguished.

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