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It's 1954, and twenty-two-year-old Lucia Lafleur has always dreamed of following in her father’s footsteps. While sock hops and poodle skirts occupy her classmates, she dreams of bacteria and broken bones—and the day she’ll finally fix them.
After graduation, a letter arrives, and Lucia reads the words she’s labored a lifetime to earn—"we are pleased to offer you a position at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine." But in the midst of her triumph, her fiancé delivers a crushing ultimatum: forego medical school, or forego marriage.
With fractured hopes, she returns home to Louisiana, expecting nothing of the summer of '54 but sweet tea and gumbo while she agonizes over her impending choice. There, she unexpectedly befriends Nicholas, a dark-skinned poet whose dignity and intellect are a salve to her aching heart. Their bond, initially forged from a shared love of literature, soon blossoms into something as bewitching as it is forbidden.
Yet her predicament deepens when a trivial misunderstanding between a local white woman and a black man results in a brutal lynching, and the peril of love across the color lines becomes chillingly real. Now, fulfilling her lifelong dream means relinquishing her heart—and escaping Louisiana alive.
I rarely give a 5-star rating. To me a 5-star rating only comes when a book is well-written, has well-defined characters, has a great storyline and leaves us with something after we turn the last page. That’s a pretty big order and yet this book delivers. There have been plenty of books I enjoyed but this was almost overwhelming. The only possible fault I could find was that I’m not sure its title represents what it's about. I also don’t know if the title matters one bit. Having said that, to give you an idea what I think this book is about...the setting is in the South. The South at a time that races were still separated and young black children did not necessarily even have a school. A time many white people thought only white people were worthwhile. It’s about a young woman who wants to be a doctor when women were never doctors; they were supposed to stay at home and have babies. No questions asked. It’s also about love and caring and genuine kindness and horrid meanness. Maybe that’s a picture of life.
Ghandi built her characters to be perfectly picturable. Sounds like a silly word but what I mean is everyone involved, both the good and the bad characters, were ones I could visualize in my mind. So real I could create a picture. But it wasn’t just the characters that kept my attention so much. The storyline kept me turning the pages as fast as I could read.
My summary will not give this book as many kudos as it needs, but this is a beautifully written book that will hold your attention from cover to cover. It has action, happiness, and sadness and evokes thoughts we all should think on even today.
Read an Excerpt...
I didn’t realize I’d drifted off until Nicholas touched my hand, startling my eyes open. He lay on the blanket a few feet away, watching me. His twilight eyes were as heart-stopping as ever, his lashes so long they nearly brushed his brows.
“I’m sorry it took so long,” he said. “I wanted to get here earlier. You don’t know how envious I am, seeing you nap. I stay up half the night for all the work I should’ve finished while here with you.”
His mouth curved gently, though a sliver of sadness showed in the bow of his lips. I wondered if he intended the words to distract me from what I had to ask.
“What happened last night?”
“Nothing you need to worry over, little bird. Everything’s alright now.”
He didn’t elaborate. Around us, cypresses reared skyward like cathedral columns while soft light filtered through the canopy and dusted our faces with tiny islands of radiance. As always, the pristine silence of the swamp circled steaming waters, but today, something menacing lurked beneath it all.
“How can it be alright? They’re talking all over town, about how someone attacked the Widow Magnusson in the street.”
His face lengthened. “You heard about that?”
“I couldn’t not hear about it.”
He looked away.
Fear bubbled up from somewhere deep. “Who’re they talking about?”
“Does it matter?”
The same maddening answer Gertrude Mays had given. But she’d said it maliciously, while Nicholas imbued the words with grief.
“Will it always be like this?” I said, frustrated. “Will there always be secrets, things you can’t tell me?”
“Yes,” he said.
About the Author:
SHAYLIN GANDHI secretly stole her mother’s copy of Clan of the Cave Bear at age ten, and fell madly in love with love stories. Now, as an author, she still can't get enough, and the tales she spins all center around affairs of the heart. To her, that's what makes a story truly worth telling.
Besides writing, she tries to stamp her passport at every opportunity. Traveling has been a lifelong passion, and she’s lucky to have done it a lot. Shaylin and her husband once spent an entire summer living in their van while touring the Pacific Northwest, British Columbia, and Alaska. Her most memorable trips often tie in with writing: her books are usually inspired by majestic places that stole her breath.
In addition, Shaylin practices medicine, scuba dives, plays the piano, and once rode her bicycle from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic. She now lives in Denver with her incredible husband, their identical twin daughters, and two adorable rescue dogs. The family can usually be found in the mountains, either hiking up or skiing down.
You can find Shaylin online at www.shaylingandhi.com or on Twitter @shaylingandhi. Please get in touch—she would love to hear from you!