A Kind of Freedom, Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, Counterpoint, 2017, 228 pp
This is a generational story about a black family in New Orleans, beginning in 1944 and ending close to the present day. Though it is a debut novel the writing is smooth, the characters vivid, and the dialogue crackles.
The major world events hitting this family are WWII and Hurricane Katrina. The title refers to the not quite full freedom of black people in New Orleans. Evelyn is the elder daughter of a medical doctor and his energetic wife. Ruby is her younger sister whose forward ways and volatile moods leave Evelyn feeling somewhat in the background.
There are love affairs and marriages, children are born. Relationships don't always last. Children don't turn out as their parents hoped. As the 21st century hits with drugs and crime creeping into their lives, the family gets complicated. But family also holds them together.
I have read and loved Jessamyn Ward's novels, Salvage the Bones and Sing, Unburied Sing. I loved this one just as much. Ms Sexton's writing style is a bit quieter but she shares Ward's ability to bring her characters alive, showing their pain and their joys.
The sections of the story set in post-Katrina years reveal how racism and inequality affected black lives in its aftermath. I don't think I have read anything that has done that better.
It is especially good news that Margaret Wilkerson Sexton's second novel, The Revisioners, was just published this month.