Howbutker, a small town in east Texas, is home to three dynasties: the DuMonts, the Warwicks, and the Tolivers. The history of the three families stretches back to the founding of the close-knit community in the mid-19th century. The DuMonts own a ritzy department store, the Warwicks are lumber magnates, and the Tolivers own Somerset, a cotton plantation. Roses focuses on the ways that these families’ lives intertwine throughout the 20th century.
Cotton planting is Mary Toliver’s life. When her father leaves her the plantation in his will, her mother and brother are devastated, but Mary is determined to continue the plantation’s success. Mary’s budding romance with Percy Warwick, son of one of the other great Howbutker families, is derailed by her love for Somerset over all else. After a series of misunderstandings, Mary marries Ollie DuMont instead of Percy, and the families’ lives are changed. Sixty years later, the story begins to repeat itself, this time with Mary’s great-niece Rachel and Percy’s grandson Matthew. Will the descendants repeat their ancestors’ mistakes, or can they learn to reconcile their love for the land with their love for each other?
This cross-generational tale is reminiscent of the family sagas that were popular in the 1970s and 1980s, only restructured and updated to fit modern tastes. While the story is epic, the cast of characters is manageable, allowing the reader to get to know the players well. There are enough twists, turns, and surprises to keep the book interesting, but not so many that the story becomes overloaded or unbelievable. The resolution is satisfying but not necessarily tidy, and the new generation of characters—Mary and Percy’s grandchildren—learn important lessons about love, forgiveness, and family from the mistakes of their ancestors. Family saga fans should hope that Meacham’s debut is a sign of good things to come for the genre.