Jessica Maria Tuccelli’s family saga incorporates both Native American and African American history and lore, and even some hints of the supernatural. The southern Appalachia setting is an important element of the book, so it is interesting to read the author’s description of how she found the setting for her story.
You might also enjoy a listen to some of her musical influences on Largehearted Boy.
Adult/High School–Tuccelli’s debut novel is a sweeping account of multiple generations covering more than 100 years of life in and around a small mountain town in Georgia. The story opens in 1941 when Amelia, a young mother, is threatened as a result of her involvement in the NAACP. Feeling the urgency of the threat, she puts her daughter on a bus to escape danger. Ella never makes it and is left for dead on the side of the road until her rescue by two women who play a central role in uncovering the rich layers of the child’s family heritage. This is a dense novel told from multiple points of view that vividly portray the harsh realities of slave life in the old South and the racism and oppression still in existence as the novel opens. Native Americans are not spared either; their brutal treatment is told via Amelia’s stories, a descendent of the Red Tail Hawk clan. However, readers can’t help but be enchanted by the many likable characters, including Willie Mae (one of Ella’s rescuers), a former slave, a medical practitioner of sorts, and a believer in ghosts (she’s not the only believer); and Riddle, once a recluse, who becomes an overseer on a plantation and falls in love with the housekeeper. What shines through so many of the family stories over the many generations is the sense of compassion, hope, love, and the ties that bind the families together. Because it can be confusing with the shifting time periods and narrators, readers may need to keep the family tree bookmarked! Recommend this one to teens who enjoy Southern historical fiction, family sagas, and spunky heroines.–Jane Ritter, Mill Valley School District, CA