In the 1950s in Drexel, Mississippi, it is difficult, if not nigh onto impossible, for a woman like Jade Dupree to live in her own skin – skin that could pass as white, but in Drexel, makes her as black as any full-blood Negro in the state. It doesn’t matter that her mother is a wealthy white woman. Jade will never receive treatment equal to that her mother receives.
When Jade’s half-sister, Marlena – wife of a wealthy local businessman — is attacked and almost killed, and her daughter goes missing, the entire town is up in arms. What kind of people are prowling around Drexel? And what was Marlena doing in a secluded wooded spot with her child? Marlena’s attack is just the first in a series of horrible doings in Drexel.
The town sheriff, Frank, wants to know what’s going on – and he desperately wants to find Marlena’s daughter. On his way to uncovering a nasty mess of interwoven, sick and destructive relationships, he and Jade begin a forbidden love affair – one that might be overlooked in New Orleans but not in Drexel.
Haines has created a cast of wonderful characters, each finely honed to a sharp point. The steamy woods and overgrown kudzu almost reach out from the pages to grab you. The terror that Jade feels knowing that she has no choice but to follow her heart and be with Frank is palpable. This is a world not so far removed from ours, but yet strange and distasteful. Haines has hit it right on.