By now, it should be no secret that Melissa Foster is one of my new favorite authors. I read Chasing Amanda and loved it. I read Traces of Kara and really, really liked it. Now I’ve just finished reading Have No Shame, and I have to say that it is by far my favorite of the three. It’s just incredibly good.
CAUTION: BIG SPOILERS AHEAD!!!
The year is 1967, and Alison Tillman is an eighteen-year-old girl living in rural Arkansas. She finds the dead, mutilated body of a black man floating in a river, and her life is forever changed. She’s known that her boyfriend, Jimmy Lee, has been involved in beating up Blacks in the town before, but now it suddenly bothers her. She finally realizes that these Negroes are people, just like she is. They have families who love them, just like she does. Their skin just happens to be a different color.
She also comes to realize that some of them, like the bright, well educated, soldier brother of one of her daddy’s farmhands are a good deal nicer and all around better than some of the Whites she associates with, like Jimmy Lee. She and Jackson form a strong friendship that quickly turns into something else, and they share one night of passion before Jackson goes back to war, and Alison marries the less than ideal Jimmy Lee.
Soon after her marriage begins, Alison discovers she is pregnant, but she doesn’t let that stop her. She gets a job and joins her mother and sister in the civil rights movement, but they have to keep all of their activities secret because of the disapproval of the whole town and, most notably, Alison’s father.
When the baby is born, everyone (except for me, because I saw it coming) is surprised to find out that the baby is Jackson’s – not Jimmy Lee’s. Even though I knew this was going to be the case, I couldn’t wait to find out where Melissa went with this, and I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, I loved the story more because of it. Even Alison’s father rallies to support the interracial couple, declaring, “…whoever my daughter loves, I love.” I know that not all fathers feel this way, so it was that much more wonderful to me that Alison’s daddy responded the way he did.
This is a beautifully written book. I loved the use of the first-person narrative. It really helped you get into Alison’s mind, and I don’t think the reader lost out on anything by not being able to enter the heads of the other characters. At the end, the first person narration switches over, briefly, to Jackson. I found this less effective and thought that the book could have ended before this with no problem, but I still thought it was interesting to get into Jackson’s head for a bit. There were a few minor typos and editing issues, but overall, it was a fabulous read.
And I did feel a little sad when it was over. That’s one of the signs of an amazing book! Click on the book cover above and buy it today. You will NOT be sorry you did!
***I received an ARC in exchange for this review.***