After her Aunt Eva passes away, seventeen-year old Evelyn Roe is charged by her parents to tend to her deceased aunt and uncle’s farm near the fictional town of Clarion, North Carolina. The farm lies twenty-five miles outside of Charlotte. Riley’s story begins at the end of World War II and most of the town’s men are off fighting, if they have not already perished in the wake of the war effort.
With their work at the cotton mill, Evelyn’s parents do not have time to look after the farm. Despite her initial shock at the responsibility, Evelyn quickly adapts to her new circumstances and finds freedoms alongside her obligations. Thanks to her height, her red hair, and her smattering of freckles, Evelyn is teased mercilessly. Like many small towns, Clarion does not take kindly to differences. But on the farm, she develops a loving bond to her family’s land.
On the farm, Evelyn happens upon something odd — a man lodged in the harsh, red clay earth. Evelyn rescues and cares for the disfigured man. Yet the unknown, unnamed man is not what he seems. He possesses strange talents that verge on supernatural. Evelyn and the man who eventually transforms into Adam Hope fall in love. Their connection is profound, both spiritual and sensual. They marry and start a family.
The town of Clarion accepts Adam unequivocally. They appreciate his kind heart, large appetite, and earthy nature. At first. After a tragic incident brings grief to the Hope family, Adam’s unusual behavior elicits discomfort and draws questions from the townspeople. Suddenly, the Hope family finds their way of life endangered. Will Evelyn and Adam be able to restore their standing in the community and maintain their intimate bond? Or will the stress of prying public opinion unravel the Hope family?
First-time novelist Rhonda Riley presents a story with biblical undertones that focuses on unwavering love and that experiments with concepts such as gender and physical manifestations of differences. Her exploration of gender in particular is at times reminiscent of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando. She highlights the subtleties and secrets that exist within families. Riley questions ancestry and if people can know one another truly.
Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.