Lori Roy has entered the arena of great American authors shared by Williams, Faulkner and Lee. She earned last year’s Edgar Award for Best First Novel (BENT ROAD). Her second roman noir reads like the evening news: extreme bullying, racial intolerance, prostitution, spousal abuse, abductions, rape…and worse. Roy brilliantly sets her stage for this novel in Michigan to demonstrate nationwide racial injustice, and not only in the South. Troubling for me, I grew up in the ’50s on North Carolina’s version of Alder Avenue.
Malina Herze, Grace Richardson, Julia Wagner, and other Alder Avenue housewives in 1958’s racially segregated suburban Detroit seem like robotic Stepford Wives: They live to serve their menfolk, smooth out foil to reuse to save their husbands’ hard-earned money, host bake sales for the church, and wear proper skirts to mid-calf and white gloves when driving…if their husbands allow. “This will not end well.”
"Roy brilliantly sets her stage for this novel in Michigan to demonstrate nationwide racial injustice, and not only in the South."
A slew of characters overwhelm at first, but the cogs mesh. “When Malina was younger, she was careless and would lie without thinking,” but her husband broke that flaw --- and her clavicle. Julia blames herself for her husband’s inadequacies, and her infant daughter died under suspect circumstances. For two years, she contemplates adoption but doesn’t consider her motherless nieces. Elizabeth Symanski has a child’s mind in a young adult’s body, and identifies her house only by the front iron gate. She vanishes the day after someone murders a “colored woman” near the factory where the men work --- and where prostitutes congregate on payday to entertain them. If Elizabeth is “found, things will return to normal.”
Julia is the last to see Elizabeth, standing at her iron gate and assumes