This wise, well-told 1930s-era story about a young woman from the back woods of Bittersweet Creek, Alabama, who moves to a nearby city to work for the newspaper will haunt the jaded cloak off a cynic and the bloom off a Southern Magnolia in the arena of pure beauty.
A preacher’s daughter, protagonist Mercy Land is steeped in the spiritual and plain-spoken common sense of the rural South. She carries her heritage deep in her humble soul when she begins work for Doc on the Bay City “Banner.” While Doc is the epitome of a caring, community oriented small town newspaper editor, his kindness contains sad flaws.
The focal point of the novel is a shining book of light that appears out of nowhere on Doc’s desk. The book knows everything, roads taken and roads not taken, about the residents of Bay City. It contains secrets only an arrogant individual would dare to know. But then, why did it appear? To read or not to read is the bittersweet question that follows Doc and Mercy with more urgency than the daily news.
Like any good editor, Doc finds it difficult to sit on the story of a lifetime. Like any young woman who fondly recalls her formative years, Mercy cannot ignore what the book knows about a childhood companion who vanished without a trace years ago.
From Mercy’s point of view, “To say that it became a distraction would be a flat-out lie. It became an obsession. Doc swore me to complete secrecy so that no one in town knew a thing. But that wasn’t the toughest part; he swore me to keep the secret from everyone in Bittersweet Creek.”
As Jordan writes in a note to the reader at the end of the book, this is a story about choices and their impact on a person’s interconnected relationships. The novel’s fine-spun wisdom, mysterious and engaging plot and shimmering magical realism are the stuff of dreams and wondrous storytelling.