Under the Tulip Tree
By Michelle Shocklee
Tyndale House Publishers
NORA’S REVIEW: Lorena’s father, a bank president, had a comfortable lifestyle and was well received in social circles before the market took a dive. Lorena Leland and her family were forever changed by the stock market crash in 1929. Little did Lorena know that taking a job with the FWP (Federal Writers’ Project) would rock her world even more than it had in the last seven years of the Great Depression.
I too wanted to know more. It was remarkable to find out what the Federal Writers Project was and how the author based her narrative on it. It was astounding to read that the President deemed slaves’ stories were important to preserve for future generations. I was fascinated to learn about history through Lorena’s (nicknamed Rena) eyes as she meets 101-year-old Frankie Washington, born a slave and has seen a lot in her 101 years.
Both women were facing their fears Rena Leland, going to a scary part of town to interview a black woman in her home. Frankie Washington had to trust a white woman, welcome her inside and divulge horrific things she had not thought about for years. Could she share these events? Would this woman write what Frankie says or would they change it when things get too hard to hear?
Rena sits down next to Frankie. She is stunned by her courage and trust to share heartaches, lessons, and joys intertwined in hard-tragic times. Frankie had been prompted by the Lord to open her home to Rena, make her feel welcome, as she shared, she let God do the rest.
These women become fast friends and Rena desires to hear more of Frankie’s story. She could not just ask the scripted few questions and go onto the next person. Rena had to know it all. I was on the end of my seat wanting to know it all too.
I liked what the author says in her note to readers, “I first learned of the slave narratives, as they’re called, while researching slavery in Texas. Drawn to the word-for-word and often heart-wrenching telling of life in bondage, I wanted to learn more about the narratives and how they came about.”
The author weaves an incredible story that has you hearing Frankie’s story at the feet of these two women. The author says…”My hope is that Frankie and Rena’s story of friendship, love, and forgiveness honors those whose lives now fill the pages of history.”
Oh, I was blown away by the depth of this story, it’s unforgettable characters, its surprises and the natural spiritual thread. This story would work well for your next book club pick. It is a rich story that you’ll be thinking about long after you close the book. This is the first book I’ve read by this author and it won’t be the last.
FROM THE BACK COVER: Sixteen-year-old Lorena Leland’s dreams of a rich and fulfilling life as a writer are dashed when the stock market crashes in 1929. Seven years into the Great Depression, Rena’s banker father has retreated into the bottle, her sister is married to a lazy charlatan and gambler, and Rena is an unemployed newspaper reporter. Eager for any writing job, Rena accepts a position interviewing former slaves for the Federal Writers’ Project. There, she meets Frankie Washington, a 101-year-old woman whose honest yet tragic past captivates Rena.
As Frankie recounts her life as a slave, Rena is horrified to learn of all the older woman has endured—especially because Rena’s ancestors owned slaves. While Frankie’s story challenges Rena’s preconceptions about slavery, it also connects the two women whose lives are otherwise separated by age, race, and circumstances. But will this bond of respect, admiration, and friendship be broken by a revelation neither woman sees coming?
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”
Nora St. Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins!
The Book Club Network blog www.bookfun.org