As the sun begins to set over Louisiana one October day in 1943, a young black man faces the final hours of his life: at midnight, eighteen-year-old Willie Jones will be executed by electric chair for raping a white girl - a crime some believe he did not commit.
In a tale taut with tension, events unfold hour by hour from the perspectives of nine people involved. They include Willie himself, who knows what really happened, and his father, desperately trying to reach the town jail to see his son one last time; the prosecuting lawyer, haunted by being forced to seek the death penalty against his convictions, and his wife, who believes Willie to be innocent; the priest who has become a friend to Willie; and a mother whose only son is fighting in the Pacific, bent on befriending her black neighbours in defiance of her husband.
In this exceptionally powerful novel, Elizabeth Winthrop explores matters of justice, racism and the death penalty in a fresh, subtle and profoundly affecting way. Her kaleidoscopic narrative allows us to inhabit the lives of her characters and see them for what they are - complex individuals, making fateful choices we might not condone, but can understand.
'It takes a brave writer to compose a novel about the execution of an African-American man in the Deep South when the topic has previously been brought to life by authors like Harper Lee and Ernest Gaines. There are multiple possibilities for failure: preachiness, melodrama and bias, to name a few. But Elizabeth H. Winthrop avoids these hazards by writing well, demonstrating once again that while the subject matter is the body of the narrative, the prose itself is the soul and the thing that makes a topic new. . . [The novel] gathers great power as it rolls on propelled by its many voices.' Tim Gautreaux, New York Times
Elizabeth H. Winthrop graduated from Harvard University in 2001 with a BA in English and American Literature and Language, and in 2004 she received her Master of Fine Arts in fiction from the University of California at Irvine. Fireworks, her first novel, was published by Sceptre in 2006, her second, December, was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick for 2009 (both published by Knopf in the US) and her third, The Why of Things, was published in 2013. Born and raised in New York City, she now resides in Gloucester, Massachusetts with her husband and daughter.