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THE CUTTING SEASON
by Attica Locke
Harper, September 2012
433 pages
$25.99
ISBN: 0061802050


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Inspired by the very real Oak Alley Plantation, Attica Locke has based her modern-day tale on the clash of the old and the new at an antebellum plantation that serves as a tourist spot in modern day Louisiana. Located next to cane fields, the story centers on the slain body of a migrant farm worker found on the plantation.

The story centers on Caren Gray, the African-American manager of Belle Vie Plantation. She grew up there, and has returned to the plantation to work and raise her daughter. When the terrible discovery of the death occurs, many secrets begin spilling out, both ancient and present-day. Gray also suspects that the police are on the wrong trail in the investigation, desiring to end the case quickly rather than correctly.

It all becomes more complex as her own past actions come to the forefront. Her daughter's father, a Washington lawyer, comes back to protect his daughter, as well as to help sort out some assistance for one

of the workers on the plantation who has been accused of the crime. Then Gray learns her own life plans may be in doubt, as rumors about the plantation's future begin circulating among the staff.

It all goes back to the story of a slave, Gray's ancestor, who once worked the cane fields of Belle Vie at the time of the Civil War. Attica Locke ties the two stories together beautifully, refusing to let her own (or her readers') vision of history be clouded by the charm and beauty of the modern day plantation setting.

This novel far surpasses Locke's first novel, BLACK WATER RISING, which was widely praised by critics. THE CUTTING SEASON is both more interesting and more intimate, and takes on with a keen eye the issues of racism and the tendency to revisit the past's sins in a more modulated light. It also addresses the age-old story of wealth and privilege gone awry. In sum, the whole is greater than the parts, and the present is equal partner to the past.

Christine Zibas is a freelance writer and former director of publications for a Chicago nonprofit.

Reviewed by Christine Zibas, January 2013

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