A Tapestry of Hope
The opening scene depicts Jasmine Wainwright, a Southern belle complete with chiding mammy. Jasmine meets Bradley Houston and his brother Nolan. Bradley wants to buy cotton for his mill in Massachusetts, while Nolan wants to observe the “peculiar institution” of slavery. Jasmine’s grandmother in Lowell, Massachusetts, invites her to come north. Bradley maneuvers to have Jasmine as his wife and position himself to inherit the plantation. Nolan argues with him, defending the girl’s high spirits, but Bradley is sure he can train her to follow his rules.
Offering to act as buyer for the Boston Associates, Bradley expresses his understanding of their southern suppliers, slave-holders who pay for food, housing, clothing and medical needs while the Irish and mill girls pay for their own. The heart of the story is the relationship between Jasmine and her liberal grandmother, to whom Bradley is a dastardly villain.
Returning to a time when women were so oppressed is like visiting a foreign country. The multiple viewpoints give equal weight to each character. Most are proper Victorians, which weighs down the narrative. The characterization needs comic relief. Halfway through the book there’s a chasm as the character set revolves, but Kiara quickly engages our interest because of her life and death struggle in Ireland. Some readers won’t like being re-positioned so abruptly, but the links are soon clear.