on September 8th 2013
1971—In the tiny, backward town of Tulma, Tennessee, optimistic, bookish Caroline Carson unwittingly finds herself in the middle of a forbidden romance. Severely neglected by her family and forced to flee Tulma to protect her secrets, Caroline’s young life comes crashing down around her. She finds refuge in a new town, but the past always has a way of stretching around time and stirring up trouble.
When a new love comes into her life, she has to decide if she can give her heart to someone else, or if she will always be tied to someone she can’t have.
IN THE FIELDS is one of those books that will reaffirm your faith in love and humanity. I’m getting emotional just thinking about this book and with good reason, Willow Aster created characters and a story that is both hopeful and heartbreaking at the same time and one you will never forget.
Caroline lives in Tulma, Tennessee in the early 1970’s. Racial tensions are high and prejudice is rife in this tiny, backwater town. Falling for her best friend, Isaiah when she is white and he is black is forbidden but for this couple, love is truly colour-blind. Sadly not everyone feels the same way and when Caroline is horrifically attacked she is forced to flee her home and leave her love behind. Building her life in a strange new place, Caroline must protect her past and look to the future. However Isaiah and Tulma are never far from her thoughts, will Caroline find peace or will her first love haunt her forever?
Caroline is one of my favourite characters that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting in a book. She is pure goodness and kindness and has broken free of the cycle of ugly hate and racism that is perpetually present in the town. Her friendship and love with Isaiah is simply put – beautiful. I ached for this couple and willed them to find a way to survive together. “Love across the divide” stories are not new but this one was particularly arresting and emotional to read. The 1970’s in the South was a hotbed for racism and hate and the tension is tangible through every word. What was utterly heartbreaking for me was how this story and its characters proved just how insidious prejudice is and how easy it is to hide until the hate eventually spills over and the ugliness seen in people’s eyes, their sneers and their insults cannot be contained any longer.
The themes in the story are heavy to say the least, hate, alcoholism, death, rape, love etc but at all times despite the pain Caroline goes through and the tears spilling down your cheeks the story is inherently hopeful because you experience it through Caroline. Her ability to forgive and her inner strength at a time when she was woefully neglected by the very people who are supposed to love her are inspirational and staggering. Her voice rings out clear as a bell and you can’t help but fall for her and Isaiah. All the characters are so well realised which made the story all the more brutally gut wrenching to read. Ruby, Papa and Davis were true favourites and make me smile when I think of them.
Stirring, with a message of love conquers all but only if you participate in your own rescue, IN THE FIELDS is beautiful, unforgettable and important. Loved it.