For Lamb

Written by Lesa Cline-Ransome
Review by B. J. Sedlock

Wow, wow, wow! This is one powerful book. If you thought you knew from history class about the Jim Crow conditions African Americans had to endure in the South, this heartbreaking story will immerse you in that world like no textbook could.

Lamb Clark lives with her mother, Marion, and brother, Simeon, in 1930s Jackson, Mississippi. Their father deserted the family, or so the children are told. Simeon is extremely intelligent and ambitious—he’s saving money to attend college up North. But shy and reserved Lamb feels “like the meat in a sandwich, with everybody taking a bite out of me till there isn’t nothing left,” like she is supposed to do all the giving and none of the receiving.

On a visit to the eye doctor’s office, the doctor’s daughter, Marny, makes friendly overtures towards Lamb, as Lamb is carrying a book they both like. While Lamb is leery of mixing with white people in any form, she is lonely, naïve, and eager to read the sequel Marny promises to lend her, and agrees to meet. Their secret meet-ups lead to the worst kind of trouble, when Marny’s brother makes unwanted advances to Lamb. The Jim Crow code gives Lamb few options to resist, and the consequences become tragic when Simeon vows to somehow avenge Lamb.

The author’s note gives information on which items from the historical record Cline-Ransome used in her story, plus background information on lynching. Every character has multiple dimensions. The reader’s patience is rewarded by waiting to have the characters’ background stories revealed gradually. Plot threads involving sexual assault and lesbianism are handled with sensitivity. Despite a tragic event, the book ends with a degree of a hope. This story and these characters will haunt me for a long time to come.