“When asked what defines 'Southern' literature, most would put land and family on the top of the list. These also define Eleanor Henderson's The Twelve-Mile Straight, a story set in the 1930s in Georgia, where George Wilson owns the cotton mill and most of the land and Juke Jessop is a sharecropper on land that wouldn't support his family, but his renown fills the gap. Full of entanglements, violence, and vivid characters, both white and black, this gripping saga starts with a lynching and weaves back and forth in time and voice until a stasis, if not resolution, is reached.”
— Ann Carlson, Waterfront Books, Georgetown, SC
From New York Times bestselling author Eleanor Henderson, an audacious American epic set in rural Georgia during the years of the Depression and Prohibition.
Cotton County, Georgia, 1930: in a house full of secrets, two babies--one light-skinned, the other dark--are born to Elma Jesup, a white sharecropper's daughter. Accused of her rape, field hand Genus Jackson is lynched and dragged behind a truck down the Twelve-Mile Straight, the road to the nearby town. In the aftermath, the farm's inhabitants are forced to contend with their complicity in a series of events that left a man dead and a family irrevocably fractured.
Despite the prying eyes and curious whispers of the townspeople, Elma begins to raise her babies as best as she can, under the roof of her mercurial father, Juke, and with the help of Nan, the young black housekeeper who is as close to Elma as a sister. But soon it becomes clear that the ties that bind all of them together are more intricate than any could have ever imagined. As startling revelations mount, a web of lies begins to collapse around the family, destabilizing their precarious world and forcing all to reckon with the painful truth.
Acclaimed author Eleanor Henderson has returned with a novel that combines the intimacy of a family drama with the staggering presence of a great Southern saga. Tackling themes of racialized violence, social division, and financial crisis, The Twelve-Mile Straight is a startlingly timely, emotionally resonant, and magnificent tour de force.