Minrose Gwin on Thacker Mountain Radio with PROMISE
In the aftermath of a devastating tornado that rips through the town of Tupelo, Mississippi at the height of the Great Depression, two women worlds apart—one black, one white; one a great-grandmother, the other a teenager—fight for their families’ survival in this lyrical and powerful novel with the emotional power of the works of Jesmyn Ward, Christina Baker Kline, Jayne Anne Phillips, Sue Monk Kidd, and Tom Franklin.
A few minutes after 9 p.m. on Palm Sunday, April 5, 1936, a massive funnel cloud flashing a giant fireball and roaring like a run-away train careened into the thriving cotton-mill town of Tupelo, in northeastern Mississippi. Measured as an F5—the highest on the Fujita scale—the tornado killed more than 200 people, not counting an unknown number of black citizens, one-third of Tupelo’s population, who were not included in the official casualty figures.
When the tornado hits, Dovey, a local laundress, is flung by the terrifying winds into a nearby lake. Bruised and nearly drowned, she makes her way across Tupelo to find her small family—her hard-working husband, Virgil, her clever sixteen-year-old granddaughter, Dreama, and Promise, Dreama’s beautiful light-skinned three-month-old son.
Slowly navigating the broken streets of Tupelo, Dovey stops at the house of the despised McNabb family. Dovey hates Judge Mort NcNabb, a powerful man who cannot control his eldest son, a violent and sadistic youth who has left his mark on her own family, linking their fates. Inside, she discovers that the tornado has spared no one. The mother, Alice, a schoolteacher, is severely injured. The shell-shocked judge has gone to look for baby Tommy, blown from Alice’s arms. And Jo, the McNabbs’ dutiful teenage daughter, has suffered a terrible head wound. When Jo later discovers a baby in the wreckage, she is certain that she’s found her baby brother, Tommy, and vows to protect him.
During the harrowing hours and days of the chaos that follows, Jo and Dovey will struggle to navigate a landscape of disaster and battle both the demons and the history that link and haunt them.
Drawing on historical events, Minrose Gwin beautifully imagines natural and human destruction in the deep South of the 1930s through the experiences of two remarkable women whose lives are indelibly connected by forces beyond their control. A story of loss, hope, despair, grit, courage, and race, Promise reminds us of the transformative power and promise that comes from confronting our most troubled relations with one another.
About the Author
Minrose Gwin began her career as a news reporter in the South and is the author of the novel The Queen of Palmyra, a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick, and the memoir Wishing for Snow. She has written four books of literary criticism and history, most recently Remembering Medgar Evers: Writing the Long Civil Rights Movement. She has taught as a professor at universities across the country, most recently the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She currently lives in Chapel Hill and Albuquerque, New Mexico. She grew up in Tupelo, Mississippi.