Nicole Seitz is never afraid of a challenge in the stories she writes. She meets each storyline she develops head on and without a thought of pulling her punches. In her latest novel, Beyond Molasses Creek, she deals with an interracial romance in the South of the '50s and '60s, as well as the current state of child labor in Nepal. How she merges these areas of subject matter is a testament to her talent as a writer.
Ally Green is the centerpiece of the story. She is a woman in her sixties who has returned to the low country of South Carolina to bury her father. Her mother is dead, and she is an only child, so there is no one else who can handle this. Her father has long wanted Ally to come home to the Charleston area but Ally has a restless spirit and has needed to keep moving.
At home Ally renews her friendship with Vesey Washington, a black man who lived across the creek from her family when they were both growing up. Ally felt an attraction to Vesey from their earliest meeting but she and he both knew nothing of a romance could develop between them.
While this story is developing Seitz interjects the story of Sunila, a woman of the lowest caste living in Nepal. She has worked since the earliest age as a stone cutter. As hard as she worked she and her family could never escape the poverty that engulfed them. Still Sunila has a plan of escape and she dreams of her life being changed.
As Seitz weaves her slow-moving story, and that is a praise instead of a condemnation, she creates full portraits of Ally, Vesey and Sunila. You get to know their strengths and their faults, and learn to care about their pasts, presents and futures. Ally is the hardest to understand but wisely Seitz devotes the most pages to her. We grow to see the reasons for her complexities and for her rough edges. She is a woman who has endured much and still survived.
Some books are meant to be read quickly but Beyond Molasses Creek is one that is meant to be digested slowly so as to get the full flavor of the story. There is richness in the telling and substance in the content. Seitz has written good stories in the past but Beyond Molasses Creek exceeds all of them.
When you read this book expect to be challenged emotionally. There is heartbreak and hope in its pages. When it is winding down there seems to be a satisfactory ending and then the story unnecessarily goes on a little longer. This is one of the few flaws in an almost totally enjoyable book.
Settle down with a copy of Beyond Molasses Creek and let its words transport you to a boat on the water on a glorious summer day. As you drift you can lose yourself in this story of three people caught up in the currents of their lives. They can't always control their pathway but they do know their goal of a destination.
Beyond Molasses Creek is published by Thomas Nelson. It contains 320 pages and sells for $15.99.