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In the aftermath of a devastating tornado that rips through the town of Tupelo, Mississippi, at the height of the Great Depression, two women worlds apart--one black, one white; one a great-grandmother, the other a teenager--fight for their families' survival in this lyrical and powerful novel

"Gwin's gift shines in the complexity of her characters and their fraught relationships with each other, their capacity for courage and hope, coupled with their passion for justice." -- Jonis Agee, bestselling author of The River Wife

A few minutes after 9 p.m. on Palm Sunday, April 5, 1936, a massive funnel cloud flashing a giant fireball and roaring like a runaway train careened into the thriving cotton-mill town of Tupelo, Mississippi, killing more than 200 people, not counting an unknown number of black citizens, one-third of Tupelo's population, who were not included in the official casualty figures.

When the tornado hits, Dovey, a local laundress, is flung by the terrifying winds into a nearby lake. Bruised and nearly drowned, she makes her way across Tupelo to find her small family--her hardworking husband, Virgil, her clever sixteen-year-old granddaughter, Dreama, and Promise, Dreama's beautiful light-skinned three-month-old son.

Slowly navigating the broken streets of Tupelo, Dovey stops at the house of the despised McNabb family. Inside, she discovers that the tornado has spared no one, including Jo, the McNabbs' dutiful teenage daughter, who has suffered a terrible head wound. When Jo later discovers a baby in the wreckage, she is certain that she's found her baby brother, Tommy, and vows to protect him.

During the harrowing hours and days of the chaos that follows, Jo and Dovey will struggle to navigate a landscape of disaster and to battle both the demons and the history that link and haunt them. Drawing on historical events, Minrose Gwin beautifully imagines natural and human destruction in the deep South of the 1930s through the experiences of two remarkable women whose lives are indelibly connected by forces beyond their control. A story of loss, hope, despair, grit, courage, and race, Promise reminds us of the transformative power and promise that come from confronting our most troubled relations with one another.

Author Notes

Minrose Gwin is the author of the memoir Wishing for Snow (LSU Press2004).

She has written 3 scholarly books and has co-edited The Literature of the American South (Norton).

Gwin currently teaches at UNC Chapel Hill. Wishing for Snow is her debut novel.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

A massive tornado destroyed the Mississippi town of Tupelo on Palm Sunday, 1936. The twister claimed the lives of more than 200 of the town's white residents. The black members of the community who were killed and injured went uncounted. In this harrowing novel, Gwin describes the desperate fight for survival of two people who, on the surface, are about as different from each other as they could be. Dovey, a black washwoman whose granddaughter lost a seemingly bright future when she was bothered and impregnated by a white man, is blown into a pond by the storm's winds. Meanwhile, Jo, the white teenage daughter of a judge and the sister of the young man who attacked Dovey's granddaughter, is left to care for her mother and infant brother after the storm. But Dovey and Jo have more in common than it seems, as their stories unfold in the days after the storm. A gripping tale of racism, power, and the bonds that make a family, Promise explores how one can rebuild after tragedy strikes.--Thoreson, Bridget Copyright 2017 Booklist

Library Journal Review

An opening author's note explains how reports of the devastating 1936 Tupelo, MS, tornado that killed 200 people ignored its impact on the African American community, so this work of historical fiction is intended as a means of deciphering that "fractured landscape"-making it a novel that would appeal to readers of Sue Monk Kidd's The Invention of Wings. Black and white characters are equally well drawn in this atmospheric whirlwind of a book, set over the brief period from the moment the unannounced late-evening storm strikes to its horrific aftermath. The story jumps back and forth in time, as confusedly as the protagonists' thoughts, following the parallel paths of survivors struggling to find family members, but persistent readers will be well rewarded. VERDICT Gwin's sophomore effort (after The Queen of Palmyra) is a memorable, dreamlike, if disjointed narrative that vividly conveys what it was like to survive the fourth most deadly tornado in U.S. history; it also brings to light the vast disparity in the care and treatment of white vs. black residents. [See Prepub Alert, 8/28/17.]-Laurie Cavanaugh, Thayer P.L., Braintree, MA © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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