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Freshwater Road

B+

In 1964 — the year freedom fighters Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner disappeared in Mississippi — actress Nicholas (TV’s Room 222) joined the civil rights movement as part of the Free Southern Theater. In Freshwater Road, she mines that experience for a hypnotic novel about 19-year-old Celeste Tyree, a privileged Northern black girl who spends a Mississippi summer registering African Americans to vote. Nicholas slows her story with excessive details, but conjures an insidious mood of fear and writes with lyrical prose (about the water in the Gulf of Mexico: ”It barely lapped against itself, an old dog licking a worn-out shoe”). Along with segregationist terrors (beatings, night shootings, a church torching), Celeste sustains hard blows in learning long-held secrets about her past.Before her summer is up in this resonant story, she finds herself ”in a life and death struggle for a place called home.”

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