Book Review: Heaven, My Home by Attica Locke | More2Read
 

Heaven, My Home by Attica Locke


 


One of Entertainment Weekly‘s Biggest Books of Fall 2019
Texas Ranger Darren Mathews is on the hunt for a missing boy — but it’s the boy’s family of white supremacists who are his real target in this “instantly gripping crime novel” (Booklist) by the award-winning author of Bluebird, Bluebird

9-year-old Levi King knew he should have left for home sooner; now he’s alone in the darkness of vast Caddo Lake, in a boat whose motor just died. A sudden noise distracts him – and all goes dark.

Darren Mathews is trying to emerge from another kind of darkness; after the events of his previous investigation, his marriage is in a precarious state of re-building, and his career and reputation lie in the hands of his mother, who’s never exactly had his best interests at heart. Now she holds the key to his freedom, and she’s not above a little maternal blackmail to press her advantage.

An unlikely possibility of rescue arrives in the form of a case down Highway 59, in a small lakeside town where the local economy thrives on nostalgia for ante-bellum Texas – and some of the era’s racial attitudes still thrive as well. Levi’s disappearance has links to Darren’s last case, and to a wealthy businesswoman, the boy’s grandmother, who seems more concerned about the fate of her business than that of her grandson.

Darren has to battle centuries-old suspicions and prejudices, as well as threats that have been reignited in the current political climate, as he races to find the boy, and to save himself.

Attica Locke proves that the acclaim and awards for Bluebird, Bluebird were justly deserved, in this thrilling new novel about crimes old and new.


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Praise For Heaven, My Home:

“Locke’s beautifully written crime fiction (which also includes “Pleasantville,” “Black Water Rising,” and “The Cutting Season”) have a remarkable immediacy–you breathe with the characters and walk in their paths.”
-Seattle Times

“Pulse-pounding.”
-Chicago Tribune

“Captivating”
-People

“This is a beautifully and instantly gripping crime novel. . . Locke is one of the emerging stars of crime fiction.”
-Booklist, starred review

“In addition to her gifts for tight pacing and intense lyricism, Locke shows with this installment of her Highway 59 series a facility for unraveling the tangled strands of the Southwest’s cultural legacy and weaving them back together with the volatile racial politics and traumatic economic stresses of the present day…Locke’s advancement here is so bracing that you can’t wait to discover what happens next along her East Texas highway.”
-Kirkus, starred review

“Locke makes the complex backstory accessible. This one’s another Edgar contender.”
-Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Both a fascinating, smartly plotted mystery and a pertinent picture of the contemporary United States, Heaven, My Home is refreshing, dour and thrilling all at once. Readers will be anxious for more of Ranger Darren Mathews. This scintillating murder mystery, set in Trump-era East Texas, with a black main cast and racial concerns, is gripping, gorgeously written and relevant.”
-Shelf Awareness

“Locke is brilliant at creating tense mysteries where the setting is as alive, and important, as the characters without distracting-but rather enhancing-the mystery element. You get history, a great mystery, smart twists, rich characters, and a deep exploration of the justice-and injustice-system of our country.”
-BookRiot


Review:

“The three men rode in silence for what seemed like an eternity. It was raw beauty, floating through a forest of trees older than time itself, trees that seemed to stand sentinel against outsiders, against any man or woman who didn’t respect the lake’s history, who didn’t respect or understand what had been here before any of them on that boat had been born, before America was even an idea, before Mexico and Spain had a piece of it, before the French tried it too, before Texas was more than a word of kindness on a Caddo’s lips. Tayshas.”

There is the primeval lake and the evil that mankind does.
There is the beauty of the land and the greed for the land.
Tragedy moving forward in an unending cycle upon the land.
Our likeable Texas Ranger, Darren Mathews, alongside a joint task force investigating the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas
is to assist finding a missing boy, a nine year old son of a known captain of brotherhood Bill King, one in jail.
Darren has to peoples to reckon with in another county, a drive of two-hundred-plus miles to face insults in his investigations, ones that just can’t stand his being, and as he descends into terrible days of old and new in the Deep South, the new president coming to power was kicking up all kinds of words and sentiments with the complexities of many lives trying to live alongside each other the ingredients of a tragedy in a crucible of good and evil, he needs great supply of hope and resolution, in Hopetown, Marion County, with the web of prejudices, power, and monetary gain.

Darren has a few aspects of his life in the balance, his career, his marriage, and his integrity at stake, with secrets and events traversing and shifting in life, amidst a new president in the White House, shifting to a shape edge point at the point of tipping off and loosing control.

I liked this better than the debut novel.
A wonderful tale evoking the beauty of the land and very terrible matters, through the elements of fiction and great sentences, a timeline of humans evoked within the reader, with the power of words one can see and fell, maybe heart tremor and weep at, with a vividly memorable terrible beauty of a tale told with truths of the human condition in a framework of a mystery.

There is the wonderful song about Home by Ruthie Foster mentioned in the title.



Excerpts:

“Caddo Lake was a monster, a body of water that could swallow a boy like him whole. In many places it resembled a weed-choked swamp more than it did a proper lake, a cypress forest that had flooded and been abandoned eons ago, and Levi could admit he was scared out here alone. Through the open sound south of Goat Island, it was a straight shot to Hopetown, the small community of trailers and shacks on the northeastern shore where Levi lived with his mother and sister and Gil.”

“He’d heard the lake went silent come nightfall, Spanish moss on the cypress trees dampening all sound, so that you could feel in this primeval lake on the edge of the state, this swamp at the edge of time, that you were the last man alive.”

“One by one, they each acknowledged that something had shifted in the past four weeks, not just in the world at large but on the job too. They were dealing with things they’d never seen in their lifetimes, stories they’d only heard from the older men in the department: church burnings; the defacement of a mosque in Bryan; black and brown kids shoved in lunchrooms, spit on in gym class; a Mexican woman currently in critical condition after she was attacked in front of her husband and three kids in the parking lot of a Kroger in Fort Worth. Buddy spoke of a hotbed of trouble near Jefferson in Marion County. He might even have mentioned a missing kid out that way. But Darren might have remembered it wrong.”

“Briggs had been right: Hopetown was hard to find.
It was an unincorporated sliver of land tucked at the end of a one-lane dirt road so choked with vegetation—pines and pin oak shrubs, chickweed growing every which way—that anyone who didn’t know what was back here would give up and turn around within the first few yards. The only other way to access the tiny village was by boat, across the northern part of Caddo Lake. But the nearby lakeshore was lined with ancient bald cypress trees draped in Spanish moss the color of an old man’s whiskers, the trees’ knobby roots standing up out of the water like a line of troops keeping outsiders away. There were people living out here completely hidden from sight by both land and water. The air smelled of peat moss and dead fish and the damp, boggy soil at the shoreline.”

Darren looked into the older woman’s eyes. They were a robin’s-egg blue, nestled in the pale crepe of her skin. There was something probing there. She was watching Darren Mathews as closely as he was watching her. Twice, her gaze darted down to the badge on his chest. The fact of its presence, of Darren in her house, seemed to catch her unawares each time she looked at him, made her shift ever so slightly in the gilded chair she was sitting in. For that reason, maybe, she addressed Sheriff Quinn alone; Darren was as invisible as the black hands that brought her ice water. “I haven’t seen him,” she said to Quinn. “And I wouldn’t put it past his mother to make up a story like this just to get my attention, to find some way to get more money out of me.”

“They wanted history to remember. Greg had been traveling through counties in East Texas, from Houston up to Dallas, documenting every church and mosque defacing, every black doll hung from a tree as a joke, and every real black body found the same way.”

“You see who’s about to walk into the White House? You see where this country’s at? We’re in trouble, man. There’s a point to what I’m trying to do. A case like this would make it easier for the new Justice Department to know that hate crimes aren’t some kind of liberal hocus-pocus. They’re real and deadly and unacceptable in American life. They need to see the FBI taking every hate crime seriously.”

“Through the cracked window of the car, Darren heard a husky, swinging blues, music Clyde played when no one else was around. I believe my soul’s found a happy home. Ruthie Foster. Darren knew the tune, knew she’d once recorded with Jessie Mae Hemphill. The music reminded Darren of being in Mr. Page’s kitchen this afternoon, called to mind the second verse of the hymn Jessie Mae was singing then, lyrics he’d never heard in any other version. I make heaven my home, I shall not be moved. Black music, Darren thought, so often points hearts and minds to a higher plane. The musicians know that faith is more important than terra firma, that it has to be, for the material world is full of trials and tribulations, transgressions against body and soul, against our right to any piece of this country, its fields and prairies that we once tilled until our backs broke and bled.

“The three men rode in silence for what seemed like an eternity. It was raw beauty, floating through a forest of trees older than time itself, trees that seemed to stand sentinel against outsiders, against any man or woman who didn’t respect the lake’s history, who didn’t respect or understand what had been here before any of them on that boat had been born, before America was even an idea, before Mexico and Spain had a piece of it, before the French tried it too, before Texas was more than a word of kindness on a Caddo’s lips. Tayshas.”



 


ATTICA LOCKE is the author of the 2018 Edgar Award winner Bluebird, Bluebird; Pleasantville, which won the 2016 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction and was long-listed for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction; Black Water Rising, which was nominated for an Edgar Award; and The Cutting Season, a national bestseller and winner of the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. She is also a television writer and producer, most recently for When They See Us and the upcoming adaptation of Little Fires Everywhere. A native of Houston, Locke lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter.


 

Reviewed by Lou Pendergrast on 13 September 2019