After the unexpected death of her father, life gets a bit uncomfortable for Jacy Lane in antebellum North Carolina. She has never been particularly close to her mother, who is actively pushing Jacy to marry a man who is borderline abusive, in spite of Jacy’s protests. After one particularly nasty fight, Jacy’s mother reveals the family’s deepest secret- Jacy is not her daughter, but the result of her father’s relationship with a slave. A reeling Jacy must decide if she wants to continue to live as a white mistress (and the obligations that come with living such a life), or embrace her biological mother and brother, both of whom are still slaves at Great Meadow. Complicating matters further is Jacy’s attraction to Rafe, the slave tasked with training their horses. What follows is Jacy’s attempt to find her place in her altered world.
It’s been awhile since I’ve read historical fiction actually set in the United States. It’s been even longer since I read historical fiction set in the South during the 1800’s, which is a bit of a surprise to me given that I have long been fascinated with the period leading up to the Civil War and the Civil War itself. So in that respect, reading Shadow of a Quarter Moon by Eileen Clymer Schwab was a bit like coming home to an old friend. Admittedly, it took me awhile to get comfortable with the voice and tone of the novel, but I attribute that to the fact that I’ve been reading contemporary novels quite a bit recently, and those tend to have a much different tone and voice.
Jacy’s journey is a bit of a unique one. At first, it seemed a little implausible to me that a society so focused on minimizing another race would accept that Jacy was white, but Schwab explained in detail the steps Jacy’s mother took to keep her looking white. And at its heart, this novel is about Jacy’s journey toward understanding who she really is. I feel like Jacy’s interpersonal relationships were not as well-developed as they could have been, particularly with regard to Jacy’s biological mother and brother, but enough was happening throughout the novel that it didn’t bother me the way it normally would. I was so focused on finding out what happened next that I didn’t realize it until the end of the novel.
Overall, I really enjoyed this novel and found myself staying up until 3 am to finish it. So if you’re looking for a new take on life in the antebellum South, I’d recommend this book.