The Last Blue
A large part of The Last Blue is set in 1937, when two men from Roosevelt’s Farm Services Administration arrive in the small town of Chance, in the eastern hills of Kentucky, looking for a story of people having a hard time. They hear from teenagers of a practice of “blue coon hunting,” and discover it takes lots of probing to get anyone to talk about it. Turns out the term refers to going after a group of people who have blue skin, now living back in Spooklight Holler.
The visitors follow a complicated trail and spot a beautiful blue-skinned woman bathing in a pond. Clayton Havens, the photographer of the pair, is smitten by her. Both men follow her escaping figure, and Havens is bitten by a copperhead, saved by the young woman, and nursed back to health by her family. The young woman, Jubilee Buford, returns his feelings, and thus begins a love story about “the rugged, steadfast nature of hill people” and the enduring love of a lonely man. We read this story as it occurs in that year when the country was sunk into the Depression, and also in the memory of Havens when he is approached about Jubilee in 1972.
The rich language employed by Morley captures the reader from the first page. We can readily picture the characters and share their feelings as they fight through the prejudices and active threats facing the Buford family. When Jubilee’s brother is killed, she is the last of the family with blue skin, and we worry along with Havens about whether she will survive.