Ally Green has been running since the day she left college. Her 1960s childhood in South Carolina’s low country gave her a front row view to segregation and discrimination, but that didn’t stop her from falling for Vesey Washington, the boy across the creek. Black as the midnight waters of Molasses Creek, Vesey was her best friend, soul mate, and the person she wanted at her side forever. He was also a constant subject in Ally’s beloved sketchbook. But more than the creek separated Ally and Vesey. Their world did not support a black and white romance --- a fact Vesey understood more clearly than Ally. Her attempts to act on her emotions resulted in punishment for Vesey.
"BEYOND MOLASSES CREEK beautifully intertwines three radically different people with threads of love, friendship, heartache and faith."
Years later, when they were spotted together, Vesey’s family sent him away, well aware of the repercussions if their friendship became public knowledge. Ally ran from her heartache, first to college, then to a career as a stewardess, always retaining a shred of hope that someday they’d be together again…until Vesey got married. Ally crumbled, thinking she had hit the low point of her life. She didn’t know that, far beyond Molasses Creek, there was something much, much worse to come.
Once Ally heard about the wedding, she couldn’t leave the Lowcountry fast enough. She lost herself in the allure of faraway lands and the arms of a pilot. Ally knew she was one of many women in his life. When she divulged her pregnancy to him, he eventually proposed, but Ally didn’t want to be the temporary wife of a ladies man who would someday leave her. She declined.
Baby Constance was the light of Ally’s life, but heartache still plagued her. Somewhere across the river, Vesey had settled into his role of husband and father --- and Ally wasn’t part of that equation. Acting on her constant impulse to flee, Ally packed up Constance and flew to Nepal, where she had once experienced great peace. Maybe, just maybe, she could find that peace again. Instead, she found herself in the midst of a horror that seared her soul. Seated in a lovely café with her sketchbook, Ally turned her attention away from Constance for just a few seconds --- long enough for her baby to disappear. Years of futile searching sent her spiraling into despair, and away from God.
The reader first meets Ally as she returns to Molasses Creek to bury her father. Reeling from his death, she seeks comfort and strength in Vesey, now a widower. Though Vesey tries to share his faith with her, his efforts mostly fall on deaf ears. Ally, now 60 years old, is a woman without the light of hope in her heart. She is unaware that, halfway around the world, her daughter is still alive and living as a Dalit --- one of India’s “untouchables.”
Sunila Kunari has been bound by slavery as long as she can remember, but her 38 years of working from morning until night in Nepal’s rock quarries is coming to an end. Her master has died, and Sunila has recovered the mysterious sketchbook she saw as a child. She knows it contains something important, something that could change her life, and she’s determined to do whatever is necessary to reveal its meaning.
BEYOND MOLASSES CREEK beautifully intertwines three radically different people with threads of love, friendship, heartache and faith. I find it wonderfully ironic that Vesey, oppressed since birth because of his race, is the one who experiences the greatest freedom because of his rock-solid faith. The story is primarily told from Ally’s point of view, rounded out with occasional short chapters from Sunila and Vesey’s perspectives. These little insights into each character’s thoughts and emotions further enrich an already captivating and emotional story.
Reviewed by Susan Miura on February 17, 2012