The Twelve-Mile Straight
From New York Times bestselling author Eleanor Henderson, an audacious American epic set in rural Georgia during the years of the Depression and Prohibition.Cotton County, Georgia, 1930: in a house full of secrets, two babies-one light-skinned, the other dark-are born to Elma Jesup, a white sharecropper’s daughter. Accused of her rape, field hand Genus Jackson is lynched and dragged behind a truck down the Twelve-Mile Straight, the road to the nearby town. In the aftermath, the farm’s inhabitants are forced to contend with their complicity in a series of events that left a man dead and a family irrevocably fractured.Despite the prying eyes and curious whispers of the townspeople, Elma begins to raise her babies as best as she can, under the roof of her mercurial father, Juke, and with the help of Nan, the young black housekeeper who is as close to Elma as a sister. But soon it becomes clear that the ties that bind all of them together are more intricate than any could have ever imagined. As startling revelations mount, a web of lies begins to collapse around the family, destabilizing their precarious world and forcing all to reckon with the painful truth.

The Twelve-Mile Straight Details

TitleThe Twelve-Mile Straight
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseSep 12th, 2017
PublisherEcco
ISBN-139780062422088
Rating
GenreHistorical, Historical Fiction, Fiction, Adult Fiction, Race, American, Southern, Family, Adult, Did Not Finish, Literary Fiction

The Twelve-Mile Straight Review

  • Angela M
    January 1, 1970
    Florence , Georgia, Cotton County, The Twelve Mile Straight road in 1930's , depressed times on a farm. Lynching and racism that makes you sick, women abused, deception and lies and secrets, some genuinely evil people. In the midst of it all a "colored" and a white baby are born . They called them Gemini twins, and they wanted you to believe they were born of the same mother at the same time but of two fathers and because of that lie a man is lynched . Up front I have to say this is dark, grueso Florence , Georgia, Cotton County, The Twelve Mile Straight road in 1930's , depressed times on a farm. Lynching and racism that makes you sick, women abused, deception and lies and secrets, some genuinely evil people. In the midst of it all a "colored" and a white baby are born . They called them Gemini twins, and they wanted you to believe they were born of the same mother at the same time but of two fathers and because of that lie a man is lynched . Up front I have to say this is dark, gruesome, sad and brutal. It was hard to read but more than likely so reflective of the time and place and so important not to forget that as atrocious as things were , this was what happened in that time and place. Even with that, why was I was compelled to keep reading? I've given up on books that were hard to take before but I just had to find out what happens to the innocent children. I was also compelled by the writing. Even with the third person narrative, the thoughts, motivations of the main characters are readily reflected. Chapters move back and forth in time before the babies were born and even before that to the earlier lives of the adults and the transitions were fairly smooth. The past sheds light on the present. My complaints : it's a little too long at 560 pages and the secrets revealed in the end were obvious much earlier in the book . It's a real saga of families, black and white, a time of historical shame when black women were controlled and abused by white men, when the white women had little or no control of their lives. You can read the book description and some other reviews for more specifics on the story and the characters. I'll just say that if you're up for a gritty, gut punching read of what I would say is historically significant, then I'd recommend it. There is within some love to offset the things that happen. 3.5 stars but I have to round up . I received an advanced copy of this book from Ecco/HarperCollins through Edelweiss.
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  • Fran
    January 1, 1970
    George Wilson owned two hundred acres of land along the Twelve-Mile Straight Road in 1930's Cotton County,Georgia. Additionally, he owned the cotton mill. The Jesups were the principal sharecropping family since the turn of the century. Juke Jesup's daughter Elma and Negro maid Nan lived with Juke in a house provided by George Wilson while Negro pickers like Genus Jackson lived in windowless shacks.Elma Jesup and Nan grew up together and worked side by side in the cotton and cornfields. Upon the George Wilson owned two hundred acres of land along the Twelve-Mile Straight Road in 1930's Cotton County,Georgia. Additionally, he owned the cotton mill. The Jesups were the principal sharecropping family since the turn of the century. Juke Jesup's daughter Elma and Negro maid Nan lived with Juke in a house provided by George Wilson while Negro pickers like Genus Jackson lived in windowless shacks.Elma Jesup and Nan grew up together and worked side by side in the cotton and cornfields. Upon the death of Ketty, Negro midwife and Nan's mother, Nan took over the local midwifery duties since town doctor Manford Rawls refused to make house calls.The trouble began when Elma and Nan, both unmarried, became pregnant. Juke Jesup kept them hidden in a shack without windows until the babies were born. The tightly knit opinionated community was informed that Elma birthed Gemini twins since the infant girl was white and the newborn boy was dark skinned. It was assumed that Freddie Wilson, grandson of George Wilson and Elma's fiance fathered baby girl Winnifred. Who fathered son Wilson? Juke helps disseminate information indicating that his neighbors should rise up, do what is necessary and go after Genus, Elma's supposed rapist. Kind, gentle Genus is hanged. Freddie Wilson, present at the lynching, helps himself to Genus' alligator boots. When newspapers run the story, there is Juke, front and center, relating the story and pointing a finger at Freddie Wilson. Juke plies Sheriff Cleave and others with his self-produced moonshine. Reporters interested in the Gemini twins were given Mason jars of gin to make sure they reported the "correct" story.Subsequent financial woes landing on the Jesup doorstep encouraged Elma and Nan, with twins in tow, to agree to blood tests for monetary gain at Emory University to be conducted by Dr. Manford Rawl's son, Oliver. Twins Winna and Wilson are unalike and perhaps their twinning was not to be believed. An undercurrent of many secrets existed, but, what would be the repercussions of these revelations?"The Twelve-Mile Straight" by Eleanor Henderson is a historical novel dealing with the haves and the have-nots often based upon race, gender and class. The Depression Years in the Deep South were wrought with intolerance some of which exists to the present day. Difficult to read at times, nonetheless, a thought provoking tome.Thank you Ecco Books/HarperCollins Publishers and Edelweiss for the opportunity to read and review "The Twelve-Mile Straight".
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  • Carol
    January 1, 1970
    E-galley provided through the generosity of Edelweiss, Ecco Publishing and Author, Eleanor Henderson, to be published September 12, 2017. A shout-out to Bookseller, Charles Bottomley of Northshire Bookstore, Manchester, Vermont for his recommendation of this forthcoming book. Eye-brows are raised and tongues are wagging as well you might think they would be when you hear the premise of this story set in 1930’s Cotton County, Georgia. Elma Jessup, the unmarried pregnant daughter of a sharecropper E-galley provided through the generosity of Edelweiss, Ecco Publishing and Author, Eleanor Henderson, to be published September 12, 2017. A shout-out to Bookseller, Charles Bottomley of Northshire Bookstore, Manchester, Vermont for his recommendation of this forthcoming book. Eye-brows are raised and tongues are wagging as well you might think they would be when you hear the premise of this story set in 1930’s Cotton County, Georgia. Elma Jessup, the unmarried pregnant daughter of a sharecropper labors in delivering a light-skinned girl and a dark-skinned boy. Even the unpaved twelve-mile straight, so named due to the exactness of this description, can’t separate the nosiness of her righteous neighbors and what is not their business. This birthing of innocents leads to long reaching and tragic events in a South struggling with racial issues. Eleanor Henderson wrings this character driven saga of motherhood and parentage every which way only a talented author can. Are the babies, Wilson and Winnafred a blessing or curse? Can the sins of the fathers ever truly be forgotten much less forgiven? Compellingly written, I could not put it down.
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  • KC
    January 1, 1970
    I would like to thank Harper Collins/ECCO and Eleanor Henderson for the advanced readers copy in exchange for an honest review. 1930 Cotton County, Georgia and a young Elma Jesup finds herself pregnant. She gives birth to twins but to everyones surprise including her own, her daughter is light skinned and her son is dark skinned. The townspeople accuse local farmhand Genus Jackson of raping her. Genus is lynched, dragged by truck down the twelve-mile straight and then dumped in the town square. I would like to thank Harper Collins/ECCO and Eleanor Henderson for the advanced readers copy in exchange for an honest review. 1930 Cotton County, Georgia and a young Elma Jesup finds herself pregnant. She gives birth to twins but to everyones surprise including her own, her daughter is light skinned and her son is dark skinned. The townspeople accuse local farmhand Genus Jackson of raping her. Genus is lynched, dragged by truck down the twelve-mile straight and then dumped in the town square. This tale continues as Elma raises her twins as best as she can, under the scrutinizing eye of her father and with the help from their black housekeeper Nan. Family ties stretch, lies come to the surface, and the pain and suffering of one man haunts many. There is a lot of book here and I felt the story dragged a bit but the writing was dark, fluid, and compelling.
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  • Andrew Campbell
    January 1, 1970
    I came to respect and appreciate this novel more than it promised in its opening pages. But I never did come around to liking it, exactly. Which I daresay is the author's intent.Ms. Henderson testifies to this on the back cover: "I wanted to capture the innocence of those country stories, and also to fracture it." Fracture it she does, far beyond a funhouse mirror and into a thousand jagged shards.This is a punishing book. Oh, it's easy enough to read, and (for the most part) smoothly told in it I came to respect and appreciate this novel more than it promised in its opening pages. But I never did come around to liking it, exactly. Which I daresay is the author's intent.Ms. Henderson testifies to this on the back cover: "I wanted to capture the innocence of those country stories, and also to fracture it." Fracture it she does, far beyond a funhouse mirror and into a thousand jagged shards.This is a punishing book. Oh, it's easy enough to read, and (for the most part) smoothly told in its construction. The end is a relief and a release, as it's hard to imagine much worse could happen to the characters that survive.Can fiction be penance? I had the distinct sense during The Twelve-Mile Straight that I was reading a writer's attempt to turn over every rock and bring to light every transgression and injustice- real and imagined -that her relatives might have been connected to. Her scholarship is so thorough that it's hard to discern where the history gives way to fiction.Impressive as this is, there is a fundamental flaw in how she has conceived of her story. The third-person omniscient voice, spanning lifetimes and contracting back and forth across decades, allows the reader to remain removed from the characters. The overriding and overwhelming sentiment is "Gosh, how terrible"; and this over and over and over and over again. And again.It's like a Christopher Nolan movie: expertly constructed, and yet so singularly minded that it contains almost no relief or humor to elevate or vary its thematic insistence. (And unlike a Chris Nolan movie, a novel isn't finished in 130-odd minutes.)"It's called realism," I can hear the retort. Well, no. Surely even the most disadvantaged of our fellow human beings experience more relief, diversion, and distraction than what is doled out to the characters here. (Think of favela boys piecing together a makeshift pelota out of paper and rubber bands.) In 500+ pages I experienced precisely one passage which allowed for delight in the experience of a character. All this monolithic purpose becomes, mainly, a testament to the author's tenacity- and, in turn, to the reader's superiority. We remain at the advantage and remove of History, bestowing precious little on these characters apart from sympathy and pity. But the worst of this reading experience is not emotional redundancy; the worst of it is that almost nowhere in the narrative can the reader find herself. Almost entirely missing from these pages is the shock of recognition and identification that calls the reader to account, a challenge that unsettles her where she sits today and which marks the very best of fiction.(There is a whole strain of this infecting contemporary fiction, a tendency to confuse misery for verisimilitude; this includes such critical darlings as A Little Life and Imagine Me Gone. Ms. Henderson's achievement in historical fiction is much greater than these, however, and I suspect a great many readers will enjoy it as a kind of guilt trip.)While I am not sorry to have read the book, I will not recommend it. It contains much to admire, but it has little to offer.
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  • Lee
    January 1, 1970
    I don't know where to start, I loved this book SO MUCH. How Ms. Henderson can be in the mind of so many people and write like she was there just astounds me. She made me feel I was there in this tale of poverty, hate, prejudice, and just plain evil. Mixed ancestry incest rounds out the story. Not for the faint hearted, but not to be missed.
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  • Kristine
    January 1, 1970
    WOW! I was not surprised that this novel was a tough read, given the subject matter, but I was surprised that it was so good! The author made rural Georgia in the 1930s come alive with her descriptions of daily life and the struggles to make ends meet. The characters were well developed, as the story was told from varying viewpoints. The selfishness of human motivations were laid bare in this book, sparing no one. I loved how the truths in the story were revealed slowly, in layers, reaching back WOW! I was not surprised that this novel was a tough read, given the subject matter, but I was surprised that it was so good! The author made rural Georgia in the 1930s come alive with her descriptions of daily life and the struggles to make ends meet. The characters were well developed, as the story was told from varying viewpoints. The selfishness of human motivations were laid bare in this book, sparing no one. I loved how the truths in the story were revealed slowly, in layers, reaching backward and forward in time, until it was a fully formed yet imperfect flower. My mind keeps going back to The Twelve-Mile Straight and the lives lived and lost there.
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  • Sudalu
    January 1, 1970
    Set in the deep South of Georgia, this expertly written novel brings to light 1930's troubled times. We are intimately shown the complex relationships between a wealthy landowner, his hired farm hand and his negro housekeeper as well as their families. The characters are so complex and multi-layered. You feel for them sometimes and can sympathize while other men are just true monsters. So well written I felt like I was part of the world they lived in. One lie to protect the name of the farm hand Set in the deep South of Georgia, this expertly written novel brings to light 1930's troubled times. We are intimately shown the complex relationships between a wealthy landowner, his hired farm hand and his negro housekeeper as well as their families. The characters are so complex and multi-layered. You feel for them sometimes and can sympathize while other men are just true monsters. So well written I felt like I was part of the world they lived in. One lie to protect the name of the farm hand spirals out of control and ruins so many lives. This epic novel changes so many perceptions.
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  • Diane
    January 1, 1970
    One of the great joys of reading is discovering an debut author whose work just blows you away. Eleanor Henderson did that to me with her 2011 novel Ten Thousand Saints, set in 1987 New York City and Vermont. It is such an amazing book (made into a movie in 2015), I put it on my Most Compelling Books of 2011 list.I was thrilled to hear that Henderson would be at the Book Expo this year signing copies of her followup novel, The Twelve-Mile Straight. I was first in a long line of people, all eager One of the great joys of reading is discovering an debut author whose work just blows you away. Eleanor Henderson did that to me with her 2011 novel Ten Thousand Saints, set in 1987 New York City and Vermont. It is such an amazing book (made into a movie in 2015), I put it on my Most Compelling Books of 2011 list.I was thrilled to hear that Henderson would be at the Book Expo this year signing copies of her followup novel, The Twelve-Mile Straight. I was first in a long line of people, all eager to tell her how much we loved Ten Thousand Saints and how we couldn't wait to read this new one.The setting for The Twelve-Mile Straight is a small town in Depression-era rural Georgia in 1930. Young Elma Jessup gives birth to two babies- one black, one white. Her daughter is the child of the grandson of the wealthy man who owns the farm that her sharecropper father Juke works. Elma and Juke accuse a young black man who works for Juke, Genus Jackson, of raping Elma resulting in Elma's son.Juke, who made moonshine on the side that he sold to men in the town, convinced others to join him in making Genus pay by lynching him, dragging his body behind a truck and leaving it in the road in town. The death scene is horrific, and we soon learn that there is more to this story.Elma's mother died when she was a baby, and Elma was raised by Ketty, their black housekeeper. Ketty's daughter Nan grew up with Elma, and they were best friends, even though Elma went to school and Nan worked with Ketty, eventually learning from her how to be a midwife.As the story unfolds, we find out that there are many secrets in this house, secrets that will affect everyone who lives there for years to come. People are curious about Elma's two babies, and their two different fathers, and Elma eventually meets a doctor, Oliver, who wants to study this unique phenomenon.Oliver is a terrific character; he suffers from polio and he wants to be a research doctor. He is fascinated and compassionate towards Elma and her babies. There is a couple, Sarah and Jim, who came from up North and work on Juke's land. Why they are there is a mystery, but they provide company for Elma, for which she is grateful. And gentle, quiet Genus is such a sweet young man, his murder is devastating.There are some powerful scenes in the story, including a baptism for the babies, where several townsfolk turn out believing that at least one of the babies "has the devil in him." Oliver's memory of his time spent on a ship filled with other polio patients because people feared catching polio was heartbreaking.Henderson creates such a sense of time and place, you can feel the blazing summer sun and see the dust kicking up on the twelve-mile straight road. The reader is transported to this world, one that she conjured from stories her father told of his growing up, one of eight children born to a sharecropper.Her writing is so precise, it feels like she worked to craft the perfect sentence for each paragraph. I got so lost in The Twelve-Mile Straight that frequently I found myself completely tuning out my surroundings, losing all track of time and place.But it is the relationship between Elma and Nan that is at the heart of this emotional, moving story. The two women are as close as sisters, but it is the secrets between them that drive the momentum of the book to its shattering conclusion.I highly recommend The Twelve-Mile Straight, and if you haven't read Ten Thousand Saints, pick that one up too. I'm not the only one who feels this way, The Twelve-Mile Straight has made many Best of Fall lists.
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  • Amy Layton
    January 1, 1970
    First of all, wow.  What a book.  This novel totals more than 500 pages, and each and every one of you will leave you feeling shock, despair, and everything in between.  At face value, this novel is many things.  It is engaging, arousing, and at times, horrific.  Which is what makes a great novel, right?  Within these pages, we follow many characters from before, during, and after Genus Jackson's murder.  Family histories are intertwined with each other, secrets are unfolded, and the future is u First of all, wow.  What a book.  This novel totals more than 500 pages, and each and every one of you will leave you feeling shock, despair, and everything in between.  At face value, this novel is many things.  It is engaging, arousing, and at times, horrific.  Which is what makes a great novel, right?  Within these pages, we follow many characters from before, during, and after Genus Jackson's murder.  Family histories are intertwined with each other, secrets are unfolded, and the future is uncertain what with the Great Depression having hit.  The language Hooper uses is beautiful and reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird--there's a certain type of southern drawl that she expertly draws out using dialects at time, and purposeful words at others.  It's also similar to Lee's work in terms of subject matter--in which a black man is wrongfully accused of a crime, regardless of facts.  However, it must be noted that this book does not have the same social context--both novels are written by write women who undoubtedly have great control over the  English language.  However, Lee lived through what was happening at the time, and wrote her novel solely from a white person's perspective.  Hooper on the other hand, didn't live through the 1930s, and writes from both white and black perspectives.  For me, this was a little troubling.  Despite the beautiful wordsmithing and engaging plotline, I've always been a little apprehensive when it comes to white folks writing about characters who seem to be defined by their race and the racism they've experienced because of it.  But I myself am white, and will leave an actual analysis and critique of this topic to others!Review cross-listed here!
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  • Shirley Freeman
    January 1, 1970
    Well this was intense. It's the saga of the intertwining lives of rich white, poor white, and poor black people living in rural Georgia in the 1930s. Two babies, one white and one black, are born on a sharecropper's farm. Secrets are kept and secrets are unraveled. We learn about polio and sickle-cell anemia and chain-gangs. There are lynchings, rape, love and cowardice and violence. A few people do the right thing and many do not - and many times the 'right' thing is hard to discern. This is a Well this was intense. It's the saga of the intertwining lives of rich white, poor white, and poor black people living in rural Georgia in the 1930s. Two babies, one white and one black, are born on a sharecropper's farm. Secrets are kept and secrets are unraveled. We learn about polio and sickle-cell anemia and chain-gangs. There are lynchings, rape, love and cowardice and violence. A few people do the right thing and many do not - and many times the 'right' thing is hard to discern. This is a good, and ultimately hopeful, novel but I'm glad I didn't live there and then. It will be published in September.
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  • Susie | Novel Visits
    January 1, 1970
    Original review at: https://novelvisits.com/twelve-mile-s...What Worked For MeA Story Rich in American Prejudice – I know that sounds like an awful thing to like, but prejudice was at the heart of this story and Eleanor Henderson handled it beautifully. At the very start of the book, Genus Jackson was lynched because he was believed to have fathered a child with a white woman. It’s assumed she was raped. The lynching was brutal, with many people in the community involved. Jackson’s was not the f Original review at: https://novelvisits.com/twelve-mile-s...What Worked For MeA Story Rich in American Prejudice – I know that sounds like an awful thing to like, but prejudice was at the heart of this story and Eleanor Henderson handled it beautifully. At the very start of the book, Genus Jackson was lynched because he was believed to have fathered a child with a white woman. It’s assumed she was raped. The lynching was brutal, with many people in the community involved. Jackson’s was not the first, nor would it be the last lynching in Georgia that year. Henderson bravely used the “n” word in the context of the story and highlighted many other forms of prejudice common in that era. Prejudice almost became its own character throughout her novel.Elma Jesup – I loved this character. Elma was a girl with the brains to do more. Sadly, as the daughter of a sharecropper she had few options. For a short time, Elma believed she’d end up the wife of Freddie Wilson, whose grandfather owned the farm her father worked. After finding herself pregnant, Elma was abandoned by Freddie, and left on the farm with a father she both feared and loved. On the night she gave birth, Elma made a terrible mistake, the repercussions of which left Jackson dead and Elma paying a lifetime of penance. Henderson’s portrait of Elma, constantly torn between truth and lies, her father and the mute servant girl she grew up with, was both vivid and gut-wrenching.“She prayed that Wilson and Winna might cry on a riverbank and no one would pay them any mind. She prayed that they would be saved, but from prejudice, from prying, which was it’s own damnation. She prayed that they might lead a life of glorious obscurity, of loneliness even, that they might run the acres of the farm, as she had, unwatched by anyone but God in the sky.”A Strange Family’s “Unholy Union” – Elma, her father, Juke, their servant, Nan, and the two babies made for a family of sorts. It was in no way a conventional family, and in fact it was a family where abuse ran rampant. The Jesup family was dominated by Juke who taught the others to fear him even as he loved them. It was twisted.What Didn’tToo Much Jumping Around in Time – It may have been that I wasn’t in the best frame-of-mind to be reading a long saga like The Twelve-Mile Straight. I felt like the book moved around in time too often, and sometimes without any real need to go back, which leads me to…Too Many Characters with Too Many Backstories – I could have done without the backstories of many of the characters, and in fact, some of the characters themselves. Of course, I want to know as much as possible about the central characters, but grew tired of hearing about characters who played a lesser role. (Did we need to know about Juke’s father?) I felt there could have been a little more editing to make a tighter, and even better, 450-page book.{The Final Assessment}I thought that The Twelve-Mile Straight was a good book, even a very good book, but for me it tried a little too hard. I think Henderson’s story wove together too many pieces, some less compelling than others. In those slower parts, I found myself drifting. However, had I been in a calmer place in my life, I may have felt differently. It’s a powerful book and definitely one worth reading. Grade: BNote: I received a copy of this book from the publisher (via Edelweiss) in exchange for my honest review.
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  • Tonstant Weader
    January 1, 1970
    The Twelve-Mile Straight is all about secrets, more secrets than you can shake a stick at. Folks might expect there would be some secrets when Elma Jesup delivered two babies, one white and one black. The scandal is compounded by a rape accusation and the lynching of a black field hand named Genus Jackson by a mob that was led in part by Juke Jesup, Elma’s father, and Fred Wilson, the grandson of the local seigneur (mill owner and land owner) upon whom everyone is financially dependent.This is a The Twelve-Mile Straight is all about secrets, more secrets than you can shake a stick at. Folks might expect there would be some secrets when Elma Jesup delivered two babies, one white and one black. The scandal is compounded by a rape accusation and the lynching of a black field hand named Genus Jackson by a mob that was led in part by Juke Jesup, Elma’s father, and Fred Wilson, the grandson of the local seigneur (mill owner and land owner) upon whom everyone is financially dependent.This is also the story of a lifelong friendship between Elma, the sharecropper’s daughter, and Nan, the daughter of a former field hand Sterling who left long ago and his wife Ketty who was friends with Elma’s mother and who took care of Elma when her mother died in childbirth. These two grew up as close as sisters. It’s a bond that ties them together and which leads them to carry on with the secrets.This is a southern gothic novel so it will be stewed in racial horrors, economic injustices, and corruption. There will be violence, sexual assault, and Jim Crow will wave his blood flag all over. There is one thing that rings false, though. It’s 1931, the lynch mob is all white, the field hand is black, yet somehow the young man flees afraid of prosecution for murder. That is so unlikely. One of the benefits of Jim Crow was impunity. Add the economic levers his grandfather wielded and her has more than impunity.I think The Twelve-Mile Straight is beautifully written. Henderson enriches the story with powerful visual imagery and writes for all the senses, with details that evoke the sights, sounds, smells, flavors, and feeling of the time and place. Most of the characters are morally complex. Even those we might perceive as evil have flashes of decency and those we might perceive as heroic their flaws and weaknesses. The great strength of this book, though, is the writing. Henderson has this oblique way of dropping information so her sentences just sidle up to you and unload these explosive revelations as they pass by, looking all innocent. It’s really quite remarkable and worth reading for that alone…and when you get a character like Nan and even Elma, on top of it…you’ve hit the jackpot.The Twelve-Mile Straight was released yesterday. I was provided an e-galley for review by the publisher through Edelweiss.The Twelve-Mile Straight at Harper CollinsEleanor Henderson author site★★★★http://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpres...
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  • BookBully
    January 1, 1970
    How I hate to begin this review with the sentence, "Let me begin by saying how much I admired and loved Eleanor Henderson's debut TEN THOUSAND SAINTS." Because this infers that I wasn't as impressed with her new novel, THE TWELVE-MILE STRAIGHT. Sadly, that is indeed the case.Henderson's second book takes place in the Depression Era South, rural Georgia to be exact. It centers around the family of Elma Jessup, a young white woman living with her sharecropper father, Juke, and their African Americ How I hate to begin this review with the sentence, "Let me begin by saying how much I admired and loved Eleanor Henderson's debut TEN THOUSAND SAINTS." Because this infers that I wasn't as impressed with her new novel, THE TWELVE-MILE STRAIGHT. Sadly, that is indeed the case.Henderson's second book takes place in the Depression Era South, rural Georgia to be exact. It centers around the family of Elma Jessup, a young white woman living with her sharecropper father, Juke, and their African American maid, Nan. The story starts with a lynching after Elma gives birth to twins, one white, one black.From the beginning, Henderson lets us know that things are not as they seem. Nan is much more than just a maid in the Jessup household and the story behind the conception of the twins is more complicated than what is originally believed by the folks who live in the surrounding community. These complications and back stories could have been revealed in a fluid, seamless fashion. Instead, they are piece-mealed out to the reader in dribs and drabs. The end result is akin to trying to enjoy the herky jerky attempts of a new driver. At some point, you just want smooth, open road.It's a shame because Henderson excels when she's describing and inhabiting her characters. Each of them, especially Nan and a chauffeur named Frank, are fleshed out to the point of belief. It's the story structure that lets them down especially in the last third of the book.I had hopes of this novel standing alongside MUDBOUND by Hilary Jordan or THE KNOWN WORLD by Edward P. Jones. It's easy to recommend either of those books. It's not so easy to express disappointment in this one. 2.5 stars.
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  • Liz Overberg
    January 1, 1970
    This was a long read (longer than it needed to be, by far), but I enjoyed it immensely.I read several reviews that mentioned how dark the story is and claimed that all of the characters were lacking redeeming qualities, but I disagree.Yes, this book is dark. One of the main characters, Nan, is mute because her mother cut out her tongue when she was a baby to prevent her from developing the oral cancer that runs in her family. There is a lot of blood and a lot of hate. But these are all things th This was a long read (longer than it needed to be, by far), but I enjoyed it immensely.I read several reviews that mentioned how dark the story is and claimed that all of the characters were lacking redeeming qualities, but I disagree.Yes, this book is dark. One of the main characters, Nan, is mute because her mother cut out her tongue when she was a baby to prevent her from developing the oral cancer that runs in her family. There is a lot of blood and a lot of hate. But these are all things the reader needs to see to understand what life was like for these characters in this time period. This novel is the rare one that is driven simultaneously by characters and plot. On the surface, the book seems to be about uncovering secrets and solving a small town mystery. On a deeper level, though, I think it's about shining a light on the injustices brought about by poverty and racism and the way that people internalized and responded to those things in a tiny town in Jim Crow-era Georgia. It's also, of course, about secrets, which can both protect and harm. And people, who can be both good and bad.The most disturbing thing for me was the age of two of the main characters, Elma and Nan, who went through Hell at the ages of only 18 and 14. Their stories are all-too-representative of the way that impoverished women lived in that time, totally dependent on the decisions of the men around them.
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  • Rebecca
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 stars!! Like Henderson's debut novel, Ten Thousand Saints, this book is also an intense character driven tale. This time set in Georgia in the depression era on a sharecropping farm outside a small town. The Twelve-Mile Straight connects the farm to town and the cotton mill. It also connect the characters to each other and a history they cannot escape. From the echoes of slavery, lynching, gin running, & rape rise the unmistakable markers of survival and human dignity. The Jessups, Wilso 4.5 stars!! Like Henderson's debut novel, Ten Thousand Saints, this book is also an intense character driven tale. This time set in Georgia in the depression era on a sharecropping farm outside a small town. The Twelve-Mile Straight connects the farm to town and the cotton mill. It also connect the characters to each other and a history they cannot escape. From the echoes of slavery, lynching, gin running, & rape rise the unmistakable markers of survival and human dignity. The Jessups, Wilsons & Nan's extended families seem to be teetering on cusp of history- automation, medical studies, free press, civil rights etc. Advances in all areas leave the once isolated town exposed & through the tenacity of it's female characters the families move forward. This novel is brilliantly written, leaving you with an intimate understanding not only of the beautifully rendered characters but also the complexity of small town life amid an ever changing world.
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  • Kathleen Gray
    January 1, 1970
    Dark family secrets in the 1930s rural South are at the root of this well written if sometimes depressing novel. Henderson has created some fascinating characters in Elma, Juke, and Nan in particular. There's a lot crammed in here but that's how life is- nothing is clear cut and nothing can ever really stay secret. There are issues of race, of gender, of class and of nosy people who want to impose their values on others. These last are the most destructive. It's hard to think of a genre for this Dark family secrets in the 1930s rural South are at the root of this well written if sometimes depressing novel. Henderson has created some fascinating characters in Elma, Juke, and Nan in particular. There's a lot crammed in here but that's how life is- nothing is clear cut and nothing can ever really stay secret. There are issues of race, of gender, of class and of nosy people who want to impose their values on others. These last are the most destructive. It's hard to think of a genre for this one except Americana. Some of it is what we all hope we've risen above but there's also love and hope. Thanks to Edelweiss for the ARC.
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  • Theresa Lynch
    January 1, 1970
    In this amazing book, Eleanor Henderson has created an entire cast of engaging, flawed, and authentically sympathetic characters. Her depiction of 1930s rural Georgia along the Twelve-Mile Straight evokes strong emotions, and forces the reader to question family loyalties and secrets, and the racial biases that exist in us all. There is a short list of books that have left me a different person from when I first opened the cover. Twelve-Mile Straight is now on that list, and I'm grateful for tha In this amazing book, Eleanor Henderson has created an entire cast of engaging, flawed, and authentically sympathetic characters. Her depiction of 1930s rural Georgia along the Twelve-Mile Straight evokes strong emotions, and forces the reader to question family loyalties and secrets, and the racial biases that exist in us all. There is a short list of books that have left me a different person from when I first opened the cover. Twelve-Mile Straight is now on that list, and I'm grateful for that.
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  • Yvonne
    January 1, 1970
    Recieved an ARC copy from Book Browse for an honest review. I am always fascinated first by any opening quotes author's use in their books. This particular quote comes from the book of Genesis 25:22-23. I found the quote quite appropriate for the story that unfolds in the novel. It is an unfolding story of rich, poor, black and white with dark family secrets and sins that come out with an explosive vengeance.There is no one without a secret or a sin and many are abhorrent. Being set in the 1930' Recieved an ARC copy from Book Browse for an honest review. I am always fascinated first by any opening quotes author's use in their books. This particular quote comes from the book of Genesis 25:22-23. I found the quote quite appropriate for the story that unfolds in the novel. It is an unfolding story of rich, poor, black and white with dark family secrets and sins that come out with an explosive vengeance.There is no one without a secret or a sin and many are abhorrent. Being set in the 1930's included are every southern atrocity and not one redeeming character.
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  • Sally Boocock
    January 1, 1970
    A pulchritudinous and mesmerising tale of the intricacies of race and paternity/maternity of two young women who are living in a small town in 1930's America . Two babies are born to Elma Jesup but one is white and one is black.How so is exactly what the people in the town want to know.A fascinating family drama which will stay with you long after you finish the last page. Fabulous writing and characters you won't forget.
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  • Madeline Partner
    January 1, 1970
    I found this novel to be engaging and thoughtful from the beginning, which I haven't encountered in a long time. We are immediately brought into the action, when chaos breaks out after a young white woman gives birth to twins--one white and one black. Controversy over who is the father (or fathers) fuels the first part of this novel, but Henderson quickly progresses to contemplating the wider effects of living in such a rural and small community, and the ideas of acceptance, secrecy, trust, lov I found this novel to be engaging and thoughtful from the beginning, which I haven't encountered in a long time. We are immediately brought into the action, when chaos breaks out after a young white woman gives birth to twins--one white and one black. Controversy over who is the father (or fathers) fuels the first part of this novel, but Henderson quickly progresses to contemplating the wider effects of living in such a rural and small community, and the ideas of acceptance, secrecy, trust, love and family. As the story of the two children unravels, in a sense, so does the town, and we bear witness to the harsh realities of 1930's Georgia, and race in America. Henderson's style of writing really brought me into the time period, and perfectly captured each character and scene, making this novel hard to put down, despite its length (~560 pages). This novel leaves you with a lot to think about, and especially brings attention to the consequences of our past actions, as Americans, and how that history has greatly shaped our society today, especially regarding race and gender. I am so excited for this novel to be published on September 12th (in two weeks!). Look out for it! Thank you to Edelweiss and Ecco (whose books I love!) for providing me with an advanced copy of this novel. 
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  • Jess
    January 1, 1970
    I'm rounding up here, I'd probably give this a 3.5 if I could. I LOVED Ten Thousand Saints, and this is such a departure, and I think my hopes were maybe a little too high. Henderson's writing is still fantastic, dark, and lovely, but I felt like this dragged a bit in a few places. The last quarter of the book was just incredible though, brought the story fully together, and was ultimately why I gave it four stars.
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  • Karen Donnelly
    January 1, 1970
    Henderson weaves a masterful story with twists that you don't see coming. Her metaphorical style creates vivid images in the reader's mind of rural Georgia during the early 1900s. There are numerous characters, but their development gives each a unique voice that presents their multiple sides and motivations.
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  • Kelly
    January 1, 1970
    I really enjoyed this book as it was well written with engaging characters. In this novel Depression Era southern racism and classicism as well as sexism and misogyny are central themes. American racism/classicism/sexism in general is not as well developed.
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  • Kate
    January 1, 1970
    review to come...in short, a wonderfully engrossing read
  • Denise
    January 1, 1970
    2.5/5
  • Crystal
    January 1, 1970
    Haunting. This one is going to stick with me for a while!
  • laura8759
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you so much to Eleanor Henderson and harper Collins for the uncorrected proof of the book THE TWELVE MILE STRAIGHT set in 1930 in cotton country Georgia on a farm on the twelve mile straight about a family from the south it's a coming of age story . For Elma and Nan about finding your way never losing hope , murder , blackmail ,lies , truth and justice . So much happened in this book some surprising and some not as much , if your from Georgia or love history this book is a must read great Thank you so much to Eleanor Henderson and harper Collins for the uncorrected proof of the book THE TWELVE MILE STRAIGHT set in 1930 in cotton country Georgia on a farm on the twelve mile straight about a family from the south it's a coming of age story . For Elma and Nan about finding your way never losing hope , murder , blackmail ,lies , truth and justice . So much happened in this book some surprising and some not as much , if your from Georgia or love history this book is a must read great story almost as if you lived it . this is the longest book I ever read it took me 9 day's to finish it I would recommend this book to my friends and family LAURA8759 .
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  • Carol Painter
    January 1, 1970
    Stunning. The only word I have right now having just minutes ago finished reading this. I will add more later I'm sure. But for now: let me just say that Eleanor is a most gifted writer. Truly gifted.
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