plantation in 1847 Amanda
Satterfield, the lady of the house, is driven mad with grief when she loses her
twelve-year-old daughter, Becky, to cholera. Her husband, Master Ben, considers
cholera a “slave disease,” shameful affliction for whites, and refuses to
summon the doctor. Her mind addled by grief, anger, and opium, Mistress Amanda
decides to punish her husband by taking an infant slave girl as her own. She
christens the girl Mississippi
and as the years pass dresses her up in her dead daughter’s clothes and parades
her before Southern high society to humiliate her husband. Granada
At his wit’s end over his wife’s deteriorating mental health, knowing that he is a laughingstock in the eyes of their neighbors, and a mysterious plague that is sweepoing through his slave quarters, Master Ben buys Polly Shine, a slave woman reputed to have miraculous healing powers, learned from an Indian Medicine Man and an African midwife, for the astonishing sum of $5,000, more than he has ever paid for any slave, but he orders her to trains someone so in case anything happens to her he will be sure to get his money’s worth.
Polly recognizes “the gift” in
demands to have the mistress’s little pet as her assistant. And a battle of
wills ensues as the spoiled twelve-year-old Granada rebels against having to leave the
great house to live in the quarters with Polly and be like all the other
slaves. But Polly’s sharp tongue and disturbing predictions only lead to more
trouble and unrest. Granada
The story is told in flashback in 1933 as ninety-year-old Granada, called “Gran Gran” a healer who has followed in the footsteps of her mentor Polly Shine, and is now accustomed to wearing shifts stitched out of flour sacks instead of fancy silk and lace frocks, looks back on her own life to try to help a little girl who has lost her mother to a botched abortion.
This was a very interesting novel, for anyone interested in life on Southern plantations and slave culture before the Civil War, herbal healing, midwifery, and the power of belief, this will most likely be a very worthwhile read.