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Four spirits : a novel
Sena Jeter Naslund
Adult Fiction NASLUND

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From Publishers' Weekly:

During the civil rights conflict, Birmingham, Ala., was notorious for the ferocity of its racial bigotry: peaceful demonstrators attacked with fire hoses and dogs by police chief Bull Connor; the Klan-set explosion at a black church that killed four little girls. The four victims are only background figures in Naslund's (Ahab's Wife) faithful and moving evocation of the city and the era, but they appear to several characters in the form of spirits who promise the reconciliation to come. The novel is constructed as a series of vignettes that follow a dozen or so characters whose lives finally intersect in entirely credible ways, and who serve as emblems of the divided citizens of Birmingham, some who bitterly fought integration and others who persevered in their struggle for equality. As such, it's a panorama of the social landscape of the Deep South during its violent crucible of change. Naslund, who grew up in Alabama, writes with a deep, instinctive compassion for the South's tragic heritage of racial hatred, and an understanding of the high toll paid by people committed to justice. She develops her plot in a leisurely fashion that initially may leave readers somewhat frustrated, but her method eventually pays off in stunning scenes, vivid with action, color and emotion, that recreate both the horror and the heroism. The characters pivot around Stella Silver, a white college student who is horrified by the glee in her community when JFK is assassinated, and who is moved to activism. In its authentic, balanced evocation of daily life across a wide spectrum of the black and white communities, this novel justifies its length and measured pace, and credibly renders the faith and courage that brought redemption to a blood-soaked city. Agent, Joy Harris. 21-city author tour. (Sept.) Forecast: Naslund treads familiar ground here, which may deflect a few readers, but her powers of synthesis and fidelity to historical detail could make this a big seller, on a par with Ahab's Wife. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Stella, a white Birmingham, AL, college student in the early 1960s, faces the problems of birth control, women's "liberation," peaceful protest, and civil and handicapped rights. She comes down on the liberal side but has no plans to become an activist. However, after the bombing of a Birmingham church that kills four black children, Stella and her friend Cat begin to teach night classes at the black high school, helping dropouts earn their GEDs. They overcome the resentment and suspicion of the black teachers and students only to be confronted by the Ku Klux Klan. A major tragedy at a peaceful sit-in pushes Stella firmly into the activist camp, where she finds her soul mate. As a youngster and a native of Birmingham, Naslund (Ahab's Wife) vowed to write about this pivotal time in history. She captures the confusion of emotions concerning the struggle for freedom from all sides of the picture; her depictions of hatred, anger, frustration, and courage will instruct or remind listeners of the explosive events of the time. One realizes that, despite today's problems, we have come a long way in the last 40 years. Beautifully read with a charming Southern accent by Isabel Keating, this novel is recommended for most libraries.-Joanna M. Burkhardt, Coll. of Continuing Education Lib., Univ. of Rhode Island, Providence (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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more titles about

main characters Stella Silver
Age: 20
Volunteers teaching at a school for black children.
College student

Catherine Cartwright
Age: Young adult
Stella's best friend.
College student

Christine Taylor
Age: Young adult
African American
College student

Gloria Callahan
Age: Teenager
African American
Descended from a runaway slave; painfully shy; sensitive; artistic.

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