BookBrowse Reviews The Twelve-Mile Straight by Eleanor Henderson

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The Twelve-Mile Straight

A Novel

by Eleanor Henderson

The Twelve-Mile Straight by Eleanor Henderson X
The Twelve-Mile Straight by Eleanor Henderson
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Sep 2017, 560 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2018, 560 pages

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An audacious American epic set in rural Georgia during the years of the Depression and Prohibition.

The Twelve-Mile Straight garnered a rating of 4.8 from our First Impression reviewers, making it one of only three First Impressions books in the past three years that have scored that highly on our scale (the other two were The Nightingale and Jade Dragon Mountain).

What it's about:

In The Twelve-Mile Straight, author Eleanor Henderson captures the essence of life in the rural South during the Great Depression. The plot follows the lives of two girls, one black and one white, growing up together on a sharecropper's farm in Georgia and sharing their lives and darkest secrets (Mary Lou C). The author uses the girls and those around them to tell a story about racism, oppression, and class distinction, providing a nuanced view of the South before World War II (Liz D).

Most First Impression reviewers had great things to say about the novel:

I don't know where to start, I loved this book SO MUCH! (Lee M). So far, this is my choice for best book of 2017- it's a page turner! (Rosemary K). I was blown away reading it; the prose and style were so captivating that I felt at times I was actually there in the moment as the events of the story unfolded (Janine S). I loved how the truths in the story were revealed slowly, in layers, reaching backward and forward in time (Kristine M). It will join other favorites on my bookshelf to be read again (Liz D).

Many felt the author captured her characters perfectly:

Henderson has written a wonderful book filled with larger than life characters. She strips away the wholesome façade of each and gives us a story about real people, neither all bad nor all good (Barbara O). The characters were so real that I felt I was there growing up with them through all of their trials and tribulations (Barbara P). How she got into the mind of so many people and wrote this astounds me! She made me feel like I was beside her throughout the story (Lee M). The intertwining connections kept me interested to see what happened next (Monica P).

A wide variety of themes are presented:

This is a tale of poverty, prejudice, hate and just plain evil. Mixed ancestry and incest round out the plot elements (Lee M). In addition, Henderson touches on medical issues significant at the time such as polio and sickle cell disease. Her major theme, however, is the intersection and interdependence of the black and white characters, and ultimately the arbitrariness of racial distinctions (Dottie B). This is also a story of changing times and changing attitudes (Janine S).

Almost all our readers mentioned the challenging yet thought-provoking nature of the subjects explored:

The novel, not an easy read, is nevertheless well worth the reader's effort (Dottie B). The story of the rural South in the '30s with its racial attitudes, contempt for and mistreatment of blacks, and attitudes about women is hard to read at times, but the author speaks with such honesty through each of her characters you feel compelled to read on (Janine S). Although the subject matter is certainly difficult, Ms. Henderson handles it with a sure hand and does not sensationalize her story with cheap language and terms (Carol N). This is an outstanding read and one that continues to provoke thought and regret that humans can treat other humans so badly. Yet, throughout the novel, there is a hopeful message that justice and morality can prevail (Mary Lou C). It's not for the faint-hearted, but also NOT to be missed! (Lee M).

Some felt it was difficult to follow the story, particularly as it started out:

It was a little hard to follow at first, but it didn't take long to become fully immersed in the story (Mary Jane D). There was a brief period when I was confused. I needed to re-read several pages, but they did not enlighten me. I finally decided to just keep reading and the story started making more sense (Rosemary K). My own personal challenge was following the plot as it moved from present to past and back again (Eileen F).

The Twelve Mile Straight is highly recommended:

This would be a wonderful book club book with all of the strong characters and complex themes (Carol N). I would highly recommend this book to all that are fans of historical fiction (Barbara P).

This review was originally published in September 2017, and has been updated for the September 2018 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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