This astonishing second novel by Nancy E. Turner evokes the
pre-World War II era of white rural America with a strong sense of
place and character voice. Turner, a finalist in the Willa Cather
Award for her first novel, "THESE IS MY WORDS," exhibits an uncanny
ear for dialect and portrayal of historical events in a novel that
brings the personalities and times to life on the pages.
Philadelphia "Frosty" Summers is a promising student; a bright,
young, white high school senior growing up in a racially segregated
East Texas town. She already senses the bigotry and narrow
mindedness of her family and friends and realizing her future
limitations she escapes her cultural shackles as the war breaks out
by answering an ad for factory workers in a California munitions
plant. She packs her aging car and heads west to San Diego. There
she meets and falls in love with Marine Sgt. Gordon Benally, a
Navajo Code Talker, whose gentle spirit and quiet ways dispel her
previous conceptions of a warrior. She also discovers that even the
monotonous assembly line work is more exciting than a future of
marrying and settling down with one of the local boys, whom she
sees as violent, filled with racial hatred and thirsting for
One wild Halloween night of her senior year, Frosty and her friends
burn down the local Nigra church, and she becomes inadvertently
ensnared in an event that will haunt her for the rest of her life.
The local sheriff continues to investigate the crime after Frosty
leaves town with the quiet, dogged persistence of a man determined
to see justice done. Unaware of the enormity of the crime that was
committed that fiery night several years before, Frosty returns
home with Gordon to discover just how deep the racial hatred is
that runs through the town's population.
THE WATER AND THE BLOOD vividly portrays a time in America's
history that is in the past yet remains with us.
Reviewed by Roz Shea on January 24, 2011
The Water and the Blood