JOLIE HOYT IS A GOOD SOUTHERN GIRL living in Hendrix, a small Florida Panhandle town. The daughter of a Pentecostal preacher who sells insurance on the side, and the best friend of a lively beauty who moves to the big city to pursue a career in interior design, Jolie is all too aware of her family's closet full of secrets and long-held distrust of outsiders. Nevertheless, she throws caution to the wind when she meets Sam Lense, a Jewish anthropology student from Miami, who is in town to study the ethnic makeup of the region. Jolie and Sam fall recklessly in love and dream of beginning a life together, far away from Jolie's buried past. But their affair ends abruptly when Sam is discovered to have pried too deeply into Hendrix's dark racial history and he becomes the latest victim in a long tradition of small-town violence. Twelve years later, when a black businessman from Memphis returns to Hendrix to do right by his father's memory, Jolie and Sam are brought together again. They are forced to revisit the unresolved issues of their young love and finally shed light on the ugly history of Jolie's hometown. A complex and compulsively readable Southern saga, continuing in the tradition established by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and brought into the new millennium by writers like Karen Russell and Kathryn Stockett, American Ghost was inspired by Janis Owens's extensive research on a real lynching that occurred in 1934 in Marianna, Florida. American Ghost is a richly woven exploration of how the events of our past haunt our present.
Though our roots are in the Colonial South, we Crackers are essentially just another American fusion culture, and our table and our stories are constantly expanding -- nearly as fast as our waistlines. We aren't ashamed of either, and we're always delighted with the prospect of company: someone to feed and make laugh, to listen to our hundred thousand stories of food and family and our long American past.
To be perfectly honest, the day my father died really wasn't the worst day of my life. When his beloved father, Michael, dies, Claybird Catts finds solace in the company of his close-knit family -- his mysterious and beautiful mother, Myra; his lovable, know-it-all sister, Missy; his newly grown-up brother, Simon; and his devoted grandmother, Cissie. Devastated by his loss, but secure in their love, Claybird feels as though life could almost go on as usual in their small, sleepy Southern hometown. Until Uncle Gabe comes back. A stranger to Claybird, Uncle Gabe is a brilliant academic who disappeared twenty years ago. Despite the deep mystery that surrounds him, Gabe's humor and intellect shine, and he quickly positions himself in the role of the Catts family's patriarch, filling the role of Claybird's dead father. Gabe and Claybird become coconspirators and best friends, until a slip of the tongue unveils the real history of their relationship, a heart-wrenching revelation that turns Claybird's world upside down.