Revere, Mississippi, with its population of "20,000 and sinking," is not unlike most Southern towns in the 1960s. Blacks live on one side of town and whites on the other. The two rarely mix. Or so everyone believes. But the truth is brought to the forefront when Critter, who is only ten, black and barely tall enough to see over the dashboard, drives Billy Ray—wounded in a suspicious hunting accident—to the segregated Doctor's Hospital. Dr. Cooper Connelly, the town's most high-profile resident, assures Billy Ray's family he'll be fine. He dies, however, and most people assume it is just a typical hunting accident—until the sheriff orders an investigation.
Suddenly the connections between white and black are revealed to be deeper than anyone expects, which makes the town's struggle with integration that much more complicated and consuming. Dr. Connelly takes an unexpectedly progressive view toward integration; the esteemed Dr. Reese Jackson, who is so prominent that even Ebony has profiled him, tries to stay above the fray. At times, it seems the town's only distraction is the racially ambiguous Madame Melba, a fortune-teller and "voyeur" with a past.
With endearing, fully realized characters and a mystery that will keep readers guessing until the final page, The Air Between Us will keep you engrossed until the end.
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Deborah Johnson now lives and works in Columbus, Mississippi, after residing for many years in Italy.From Publishers Weekly:
In Johnson's vivid debut, Revere, Miss., is a 1966 small town teetering on the brink of integration. Willie B. Tate Jr., a 10-year-old black boy known as Critter, drives poor white man Billy Ray Puckett to the whites-only emergency room after Billy Ray has a hunting accident. Caught up in the middle of the fallout after Billy Ray's unexpected death is Dr. Cooper Connelly, a prominent white doctor who serves on the school board and has controversial prointegration views. Cooper is a man with secrets, including why he keeps company with Madame Melba Obrensky, a raceless woman with a mysterious past who manages to keep herself well-apprised of all sides of the town's doings. Melba happens to be the next-door neighbor of Dr. Reese Jackson, a respected black physician who has managed to cross the race barrier and establish his practice on Main Street. As the heat of the school board meetings about integration and of the investigation into Billy Ray's death increase, the atmosphere becomes explosive. Johnson tries to squeeze too much out of the limited plot, but compelling character studies keep pages turning.
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