Judy Reene Singer, author of previous works such as Still Life with Elephant and Horseplay, has delivered something entirely new with In the Shadow of Alabama, a raw and emotional family drama that spans generations.
Rachel Fleischer is a horse trainer who begrudgingly agrees to attend the funeral of her estranged father, a withdrawn and angry man who left her with few good childhood memories. But a stranger approaches Rachel at the funeral, offering her an apology and an opportunity to learn more about who her father was—particularly during his time as a Jewish soldier in charge of an all-black battalion during World War II.
Traveling easily between present day and 1940s Alabama, when Jim Crow and racial violence reign, readers experience Rachel’s journey to discover the man her father was before the war changed him. In scenes that can be gut-wrenching, we see Martin Fleischer grapple with the astounding racism and violence he comes into contact with on American soil, and watch understanding and compassion grow as he learns more about the men he’s supposed to lead.
The most resonant moments of In the Shadow of Alabama focus on the unseen side of war stories: the aftermath of the war and the families who have to cope with a traumatized loved one. As Rachel learns more about her father, she, her critical mother and indulged younger sister find a measure of closure regarding the explosive man who overshadowed their early years. Though the book’s conclusion is far from neat or happy, this is a deftly painted portrait of real life, one that was inspired by Singer’s own experiences with her father. Filled with beautifully drawn characters, In the Shadow of Alabama is a thought-provoking and emotionally engaging novel that will keep readers thinking.