Racial barriers and poverty versus wealth set the stage for this book of Christian fiction, which opens in 1927 in Clearwater, Miss. George Simmons and his wife, Chassity, run a successful plantation and cotton gin while employing generations of black domestic help, which are treated like dear family, much to the chagrin of many other folks around town.
As the story unfolds, local troublemakers take angry actions against the family and its help, who respond through acts of benevolence, kindness and mercy rather that wrath. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, young black servant Big Ike is drafted and sent overseas, while George is recruited for a dangerous spy mission in South Africa. Each must deal with the necessity of taking the lives of others while upholding their spiritual beliefs. Meanwhile, lessons of right and wrong and compassion continue on the home front, led by courageous and action-oriented spitfire Chassity.
McMillan successfully spins a tale of stories-within-stories with appropriate use of foreshadowing and omniscience. There is good momentum as the story peaks. Where appropriate, black dialect is incorporated without going overboard (example: “men’s binnes” for “men’s business”). The book also includes nice period details, such as describing how a brush broom is handmade from persimmon sprouts, a pole and barbed wire. The author’s message regarding the importance of trust in God is well-placed throughout without being overbearing.
Aside from minor editing errors, A Long Way from Clearwater is a commendable and entertaining novel deserving of a prominent place on bookstore shelves.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.