Call Your Daughter Home by Deb Spera

Call Your Daughter Home - Deb Spera

Set in South Carolina in 1924 'Call Your Daughter Home' details a community sharply divided by race and class. This novel gripped me with its powerful prose and its depiction of a woman prevailing under terrible circumstances. The novel centers on three women, but it is the opening chapters featuring Gertrude that remain with me still.

 

Gertrude is the daughter of poor white farmers and is trapped in marriage with a cruel and abusive man. Her four daughters are depending on her, but she has few options left. Annie is wife to the most powerful and respected man in the county, and has had her own success in business, but something has torn her family apart. Retta was born a free woman, but she works, as her mother did before her after emancipation, for the Coles, who had kept her family as slaves. Her faith and compassion allow her to bridge the distance between the two other women.

 

I loved the writing, but there is a problematic aspect to the novel. Retta is a fully-developed character, but, without giving away important plot elements, there is a subservient role to her part of the story, above and beyond her employment as a cook, that goes beyond what is appropriate for the period. The overall effect of the novel is positive - note my rating - but I have nagging doubts about some of the tropes in effect with her character. I'd be interested in hearing other's opinions about this.

Note: I read an early and uncorrected proof of the novel (earlier then most arcs), changes may have been made.