Girl Gone North
Sisters Emma and Thalia Holden are raised in a home of limited means, reasonable happiness, but abundant love, and life in the Lower Ninth Ward is good to their youthful eyes despite vicious battles for and against segregation flaring in the streets of their city and across America.
In what seems a dream opportunity, nineteen-year-old Emma accepts a job for a prominent white family outside of Boston, where she could attend Lesley College, one of the few accepting black women in 1961. When tragedy strikes back home, Emma wonders if it is penance for leaving her family in search of a better life.
With her parents gone, her sister in Boston, and her brother awaiting deployment to Vietnam, sixteen-year-old Thalia endures life with her elderly grandfather and her hard-drinking and lewd Uncle Carl until a late-night encounter turns into a fight for her life and Thalia realizes New Orleans is no longer home. Carrying only a duffle bag, forty-two dollars, and two Steinbeck novels, Thalia embarks on an extraordinary journey from New Orleans to Boston, accompanied by her three-legged dog, Bacchus. With no clue of what lay ahead, she encounters extreme prejudice, perversity, and the challenges of nature, but also finds compassion from a diversity of characters including an elusive and eccentric vagrant who goes by the name Nash Rambler – and who just might be her guardian angel.
Emma, struggling with guilt and grief, continues caring for the Merricks, a wealthy but sympathetic family of five, but discovers she is recklessly but helplessly falling for their oldest son, Marty, who complicates matters by having a mutual infatuation. Despite their attempt at confidentiality, their relationship is revealed but not well received.
Tension mounts and tempers flare, culminating in a shocking act of violence.
Girl Gone North is a tale of family, love, humor, conflict, and ultimately hope, involving humanity at its worst and at its best. It will appeal to fans of The Help and The Secret Life of Bees.
Praise for Girl Gone North:
“I was deeply touched by this story of a strong, caring black family in America 1960s and how Thalia, pushed by personal tragedy, decides to travel and find her way in a country, not only dangerous for a young girl but exceptionally menacing for a black girl. McIlveen writes with such heart, energy, and tension that I was on the edge, desperately turning each page to travel on this journey with Thalia.”
— Linda D. Addison, award-winning author of How to Recognize a Demon Has Become Your Friend, the first African American recipient of the HWA Bram Stoker Award®, and HWA Lifetime Achievement Award winner
“‘It had never occurred to Thalia the colossal difference between one and zero and how easy a step it could be to go from something to nothing.’ A powerful sentence from John McIlveen’s GIRL GONE NORTH, which shares the stories of sisters Emma and Thalia, African American teens living in New Orleans who, for different reasons, seek escape to the North. Yet gripping challenges and dangers are no less than in the South. Set in the 1960s during a time of great racial upheaval, this novel is beautifully deeply explored and beautifully written; McIlveen has created characters I ached for and rooted for. This is not to be missed.”
— Elizabeth Massie, Stoker Award-winning author of DESPER HOLLOW, and HWA Lifetime Achievement Award winner
“Once again, John M. McIlveen creates strong characters who could easily step off the page and live among us here in the real world. They might be shocked to find that not much has changed in the years between 1961 and now, but maybe they could share some of the wisdom they gained while witnessing the infancy of the Civil Rights Movement.”
— Michelle Renee Lane,Bram Stoker Award Finalist and author of Invisible Chains