What the River Washed Away

What the River Washed Away

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No doubt about it, Scottish author Macleod is a master storyteller who plumbs the breadth and depth of emotions in this inspiring debut about a young black girl whose direction in life is defined by her inner strength and courage. Arletta Johnson lives an insular existence in a small cabin near Brouillette, La., in the early 1900s, which she shares with her Mambo, the local voodoo priestess. They have a volatile relationship, and Arletta's comments and actions often bring thwacks from her mother, who abandons her at home as she spends time drinking with boyfriends or using her voodoo to help the neighbors. Arletta fondly remembers her grandpa, the stabilizing influence in her life, who taught her to read and encouraged her to make something of herself. She cherishes his tin box, containing papers and his old wooden pipe, which she keeps buried near the shack. But being left alone in the cabin endangers Arletta in ways that Mambo never imagines: Two white pedophiles often visit Arletta while Mambo is gone and brutally rape and threaten her to keep her silence. After each vicious encounter, Arletta cleanses herself in a nearby creek, and it's there, as she contemplates drowning herself, that she first hears a disembodied voice named Nellie who sings to her and encourages her to remain strong. When she's 10, Mambo finally sends Arletta to school, where she excels and becomes friends with another young girl, Safi. But before Arletta's 15th birthday, she and Safi find themselves working in a cotton mill and boarding with a sympathetic white widow and her black employee. Mambo and Arletta's relationship changes as joyous events and misfortune touch their lives, but it's the news that another young girl has been brutally assaulted by one of Arletta's former attackers that ultimately unites mother and daughter in a single-minded purpose--and which permanently alters the path of Arletta's life. Macleod brilliantly hooks the reader from beginning to end with a narrative that

Released by Oneworld Pubns Ltd on Tuesday, July 23, 2013

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