#9 – Out of Darkness, Shining Light: Heartlands Best Reads of 2019

As we continue the countdown of best reads of 2019, we come to Out of Darkness, Shining Light by the Zimbabwean author Petina Gappah. It’s a vivid imagining of the company that escorted the body of Dr. David Livingstone, the famed explorer and missionary, back to the coast following his death in central Africa. Gappah’s novel […]

Love And Fire Children: Kevin Wilson’s Nothing to See Here

I don’t know why it’s the late spring of 1995 when Nothing to See Here begins. Perhaps it’s because it’s a time blessedly free of cell phones and texting and the narrative complications they introduce. Maybe it’s because politics had a few more norms such that a main character who is a senator could imagine […]

Long Loves in a Small Coastal Town: A Review of In West Mills

De’Shawn Charles Winslow’s debut novel begins with an arresting scene. Pratt Shepherd is in the middle of a fight with his free-spirited girlfriend in a small, coastal North Carolina town on the eve of World War 2. However, Azalea ‘Knot’ Centre, a sometime teacher at the local school for African-American children, is nobody’s possession. When […]

Dr. Livingstone? Don’t Presume: Bringing the Bones Out of Africa

Even when I was a child in the 1960s and 70s there was still some adventurer’s romance attached to the words of Henry Stanley upon finding his quarry: Dr. Livingstone, I presume? Despite the flood of newly independent African nations in that era, people could still be heard referring to Africa as “the dark continent” […]

The Not-So-Calm Before the Storm: Jesmyn Ward’s Katrina Story

Katrina doesn’t arrive until Salvage the Bones is almost over, but the hurricane has always been coming. She broods over the whole of Jesmyn Ward’s epic 2011 novel, even when the only one who seems to know she’s on the way is Esch’s Daddy, whose preparations seem excessive to his four children living with him […]