This is a coming of age story that involves love, lust, adultery, murder, and forgiveness.
Herman Camm attended the funeral of Mae Lou’s husband. Carrie, her daughter, is uneasy around him. Not long after the burial of Carrie’s father, Herman and Mae Lou announce their impending marriage. While her husband, Willie, was away at war, Pearl had also been seeing Herman. Her husband comes home from the war earlier than she expects and he suspects something is going on. Of course, Pearl denies it. Herman and Pearl continue seeing each other, having clandestine meetings.
Three plot lines converge: Herman commits a horrific act that has life-altering consequences for fifteen-year-old Carrie who has obtained her mother’s permission to court and is now in love, Mae Lou shows signs of tiring of her husband’s philandering, and Pearl is afraid that her husband will hurt Herman and vows to stay away from him. The end result is a dead Herman Camm and multiple suspects with motive and opportunity. However, no one really cares that he’s dead.
The characters in the book are true-to-life and easy to identify with. The reader witnesses Carrie’s pain with the secret she harbors after having found out another secret about herself that she’s coming to terms with. Pearl is a married woman who is having an affair with a married man, but underneath the façade, there is a yearning for something that she can’t seem to find. Mae Lou is a widow with three children. There’s an unspoken suggestion that she may have met Herman prior to her husband’s death. Her character is that of a hard-working mother and wife who does what’s necessary to take care of her family. Given her nature, one does wonder what attracted her to Herman and why she kept him around.
While providing a compelling story, the novel also gives a glimpse of African American life after World War I. It shows the difficulty for the returning soldiers to find employment. It also illustrates how hard the women in that era worked to take care of their homes and children. There is a glimpse of the life of those with more children than they can afford to have as well as mention of the hush-hush abortions that young girls had.
Blackberry Days of Summer is Ruth P. Watson's "I have arrived" statement to the literary world.
I rate this book five out of five stars.
** Disclosure: I won an ARC of this book in a contest. I received no compensation, financial or otherwise, in exchange for this review.