Originally published in 1994 and brought back into print as part of the Voices of the South series, Reginald Gibbons’ heart-rending story of forbidden love deserves a wide readership. Set in 1896-1916 East Texas, it follows the trials of Reuben Sweetbitter, a mixed-blood Choctaw, and his deep and abiding devotion to Martha Clarke. Their love survives her family’s horror, lynch-mob racism, dangers from without and within, and even the harsh landscape.
A deft and lyrical storyteller, Gibbons weaves Choctaw myth with the growing passion of his protagonists. He sometimes chooses to tell his story out of sequence, a problematic choice that may leave readers more confused than intrigued. And his ending suddenly slips into a “would” and “might” scenario so unsatisfying for those looking for the inevitability of plot resolution. But despite its flaws, Sweetbitter is well worth the effort for its compelling story, well told. Highly recommended.