Sojourn of a Stranger
This novel is a study of the consequences of idealism, the injustices of racism, and the variables that determine one’s social standing. Allen Hendricks is 14 when his father, Marcus, brings him to Gallatin, Tennessee, into the realm of his grandfather, a decorated hero of the War of 1812, now a respected, wealthy plantation owner. Marcus and the General have been estranged for many years, owing to the fact that Marcus chose to marry Allen’s mother, Lucy, an octoroon. Despite this, Allen soon becomes beloved of the General and eventually his sole heir.
Most of the action takes place prior to the Civil War. Among the society that makes up General Hendricks’ circle, the facts of Allen’s birth are known. He is accepted, however, he never escapes the fear that someone will make an issue of his “taint.” As war looms, Allen falls hopelessly in love with the daughter of a neighbor. What would be a match made in heaven is constrained by the facts of Allen’s birth, but more importantly by his own youthful impatience.
This is a thoughtful, poignant novel, first published in 1957, a time when racial division was at a critical point, especially in the South. The idea that love is more powerful than hate is still relevant. However, the idea that change is possible if one has the time and patience to wait out the last diehards might seem frustratingly inadequate today.