McMan, Ann. “Goldenrod” (“Jericho”), Bywater Books, 2017.
An Ever Changing World
Jericho is a small town in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia. It is a place for livers and lovers whose lives have twists, turns and surprises. We meet Syd, Maddie, David, Michael, Henry, Celine, and Roma Jean Freemantle as make their way in Jericho and the larger world. One thing for sure is that life in Jericho is never dull. Maddie and Syd are trying to find a new life now that their foster child, Henry Lawrence, is taking care of himself after being reunited with his father, a disabled veteran. Henry has become friendly with Dorothy, a young girl who is dealing with her own family demons. David is dealing with Michael’s love of working in a local soul food restaurant; Lizzie Mayes and Tom Murphy understand that their relationship is having problems and Azalea who is now ninety-years-old and a Yankee hater gets a job as a beta tester for Grand Theft Auto VI. As if that is not enough, Maddie’s mother retires to Jericho and is attracted to a much younger man while Roma Jean Freemantle tries to run her bookmobile as she realizes her growing attraction to another woman.
This is book 3 in the Jericho series and even though I had not read the other two, I had no problem here. I did not know the backgrounds of the characters but I picked up on them quickly. Hendy who is Maddie and Syd’s foster child in now with his father but sleepovers at the old house every now and then. Roma Jean is now a woman, David is thinking about politics while Michael thinks about food and Celine has a beau. There is a dark thread of child abuse and homophobia in the air and we see the real problem of being gay in a small town. We really feel the pain of this especially since this is a happy place.
Dorothy appears for the first time and she is an intelligent girl who is afraid of her father and his anger. Do not worry though because the anger I mentioned does not affect the fun dialogue and the amazing characters that we have here. It is just, from what I have read, that there is more emotional here than the previous two books. I have only read one other book by Ann McMan, “Backcast” and her wittiness and intelligence impressed me then as it does today. She is an observer of people and we certainly see that in the characters that she has created here.
Goldenrod is a book with depth that explores the concept of family and we see various examples of family here. We are reminded that it is parent who creates a family and we have examples of all kinds of parents here. We are in the Bible Belt so religion plays a big part here. What we see in Jericho, we see in so many other places in the United States, especially in small towns. We have really seen that ugliness with the election of the 45th president whose name I cannot allow myself to type. We also se how religion influences those who do not know any better as evidenced by the organizers of Chicago’s Dyke March this year. It seems as if we have entered a time in which it is easier to hate than to love, easier to reject than to include and easier to speak without thinking. It is books like this that show us what is wrong and even embarrass us to do right. What I really love about this book is that we have humor and depth side by side.
I mentioned earlier that you do not have to have read the first two books in the series “Jericho” and “Aftermath” to enjoy this but it helps and since I did not read them, I am going to do so starting tomorrow. The beauty of reading is that it entertains and educates at the same time and since I never have enough of either, I always feel the need for more.