Eden Rise

A Novel

Title Details

Pages: 288

Trim size: 6.000in x 9.000in



Pub Date: 11/01/2012

ISBN: 9-781-5883-8268-9

List Price: $27.95

Related Subjects

FICTION / General

Eden Rise

A Novel

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  • Description
  • Reviews
In Eden Rise Tom McKee, a white college freshman, returns to his home in the Alabama Black Belt in the summer of 1965 and becomes embroiled in a civil-rights conflict that divides his family, his town, and his own identity. His wealthy and powerful family is not prepared for the shocks that have followed the racial quake of the Selma March a few months earlier. Tom’s black college friend accompanies him home and gets caught in racial violence. Coming to his friend’s defense, Tom earns the enmity of segregationist neighbors. He feels both the hot anger of his father for his racial nonconformity and the determined defense of his mother and grandmother, as he witnesses the corrosive effects of the turmoil on his parents’ marriage. Attempting to rescue him are a cousin he never knew and a wily old lawyer who meet dangers and legal challenges that force Tom to confront the truth of his legacy.
Norrell draws upon his expertise as a historian as well as personal experiences in this gripping tale set in his native Alabama. He provides an acute assessment of a small town where the mean-spirited outnumber the well-intentioned and fat lies often triumph over the lean truth. Although the living is not easy in cotton country, the beauty of the land sustains the author as does the hope that 'no lie could live forever.'

—William Heath, author of The Children Bob Moses Led

If, like me, you were born in the 1950s South and remember Her as I do, where you played with black children daily but weren’t allowed to invite them to join you at the municipal pool, then read Eden Rise. It will remind you of the lives lost and the blood spilled to get us as far along the road to understanding and acceptance as we have gotten. It harkens back to the period when the words of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, ratified February 3, 1870, began their journey to the truth In Alabama.

—2nd & Church

A fast-paced, action-packed read.

—Southern Literary Review

Robert J. Norrell’s new novel of race, violence, and injustice in 1960s Alabama is a thoughtful and captivating tale in the best tradition of the Southern courtroom drama. Eden Rise is a well-constructed story set against a well-researched historical background. A moving read.

—Chapter 16

Norrell writes with the authority of an eyewitness as he populates the small community of Eden Rise with characters whose flaws make them familiar and approachable—yet sometimes exasperating. Love 'em or hate 'em, their voices and actions are authentic. Eden Rise provides a roller coaster of emotions. [Norrell] shines light on the desperate actions of real people during a watershed moment of American history. He writes like only someone who was there in rural Alabama in the 1960s can write—and proves he can love both the sinner and the saint.

—Philip Shirley, author of Oh Don’t You Cry For Me

Norrell's greatest achievement in Eden Rise lies in using his firm grasp of the grand, tumultuous sweep of history to anchor and enrich his sensitive portrayal of those who were caught up in it. He is not the first historian to try his hand at fiction, but he is one of the few who have made the transition seem so much easier than it really is.

—James C. Cobb, Spalding Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Georgia, author of The South and America Since World War II

From the opening lines to the last, Norrell crafts a gripping novel that not only opens our eyes to the injustices many African Americans suffered during the civil rights era, but it also shows us a darker truth about what it was like to be a Southern white man who sympathized with their plight. A fast-paced, action-packed read, Eden Rise is a believable look at a terrible reality: the American South in the 1960s.

—Montgomery Advertiser

Norrell is not only a historian but a gifted storyteller, and does an excellent job of bringing a large and diverse cast of characters to life. [H]e has a keen eye for the details of the places he writes about. This may seem like a much worked-over subject, but this author has a clear understanding of the people on both sides of an issue which has never really gone away.

—Don McKinney, The Island Packet

A noted scholar of Southern history and of U.S. race relations, Norrell is also a fine fiction writer. His keen sense of place and the nuances of character take the reader vividly back to the civil rights struggles of the 1960s. Norrell dramatizes the repercussions of the Selma-to-Montgomery March that ripple through the web of friends and family. As the nation is divided by racial conflict, the powerful McKee family is also torn asunder. Tom McKee battles to save himself, his family and friends, and his region from the cancer of racism in this painfully realistic and haunting tale.

—Allen Wier, author of Tehano

A dark moment in the history of America's civil rights struggle is dramatized in a new novel by a noted Southern historian. Eden Rise deftly catches the flavor of its period.

—Ben Steelman, Star News

Robert J. Norrell’s Eden Rise offers a dramatic and beautifully written examination of racial injustice and violence in the South during the tumultuous 1960s. Though the central events of the novel take place during a single summer decades ago, this story of the bonds of friendship and family—and of the courage and sacrifice those bonds can require—is both riveting and important. In Eden Rise Robert J. Norrell demonstrates that he’s not merely a profoundly insightful historian, he’s a first-class novelist as well.

—John Gregory Brown, author of Decorations in a Ruined Cemetery and Audubon's Watch

I’m not sure that I always believe in voodoo conjuring, but somehow Robert Norrell has summoned the exemplary storytelling voices of both Harper Lee and John Grisham, then swirled them into one of the best civil rights-era novels I’ve read since Lewis Nordan’s Wolf Whistle. Mr. Norrell knows the landscape, the people, and the inexorable beliefs of 1960s Alabama. I guarantee that anyone who reads the first chapter will postpone whatever he or she has planned—childbirth, major surgery, a family reunion—in order to find out what happens to Tom McKee.

—George Singleton, author of The Half-Mammals of Dixie

Marshall Frady wrote, 'One of the most familiar stories of the Sixties was that of the solitary earnest white southerner who wound up involved, from whatever prompting, in the Movement in his hometown, and quickly found himself ruined and outcast.' Jeff Norrell's Eden Rise is just such a story. It shows that such Southerners were not, alas, entirely solitary. Norrell is at his best in showing the family relationships that produce such individuals and are severely strained by their improvised heroics. These family encounters are moments of revelation which compare favorably with unforgettable scenes from that classic of American literature, Mockingbird. Eden Rise is a good book.

—Cleophus Thomas, attorney at law and winner of Tuskegee University's Distinguished Service Award

Jeff Norrell is widely recognized as one of the nation's leading scholars of Southern and African American history. Not surprisingly his novel about a young Alabama college student caught in the middle of a violent racial altercation in the early 1960s captures the time and place with perfect pitch. But this is more than a lesson in the history of the 1960s; it is a gripping story that combines the courtroom theatrics of John Grisham with the family dynamics of Gail Godwin.

—Dan T. Carter, Education Foundation University Professor Emeritus, University of South Carolina

About the Author/Editor

ROBERT J. NORRELL is a native of Hazel Green, Alabama. He holds the Bernadotte Schmitt Chair of Excellence at the University of Tennessee. After earning a BA and PhD at the University of Virginia, Norrell taught at Birmingham-Southern College and the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. His 2009 biography, Up from History: the Life of Booker T. Washington, was received with national acclaim. In 2005 he published a well-reviewed interpretation of US race relations, The House I Live In: Race in the American Century. His Reaping the Whirlwind: The Civil Rights Movement in Tuskegee won the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award in 1986. He is the author of seven additional books and twenty scholarly articles. Eden Rise is his first work of fiction.