In this masterfully crafted, action-packed historical novel for adults, author Cathy Gohlke delves further into the past and future of some of the characters she introduced in her previous novel, Night Bird Calling. In an author note, Gohlke explains that, within that context as she researched for this novel, she felt compelled to learn more about the “narrative on race” in the United States and “to understand more about the past in order to make sense of the present and garner realistic hope for the future.”
Gohlke researched numerous questions, such as, “Why did we, as Americans, allow the oppression and cruelty of Jim Crow after fighting a bloody civil war meant to end slavery? Why was there still division of race in the U.S. military during WWII, and what was the result of that? Why were black American soldiers treated differently in Europe than they were in America—even after fighting a war to end Nazi supremacy, persecution, and oppression of other races and minorities?”
Gohlke has skillfully woven what she discovered into linked narratives set 80 years apart on the Belvidere estate in No Creek, N.C., as two wars are raging—the American Civil War and WWII—and two young women seek justice for their community and their loved ones while navigating romantic connections.
In 1861, 19-year-old Minnie Belvidere is mourning the death of her mother even as her household is at war within its own walls—Minnie’s older brother, Elliott, supports the Union, but her temperamental younger brother Grayson backs the Confederates. Minnie and Elliott do all they can with the support of their failing father to bring to fruition their parents’ dream to free their slaves and leave them portions of land. But they encounter trouble at every turn.
In 1944, 15-year-old Celia Percy, who lives and works on the Belvidere estate with her family, discovers a secret room, a trunk, a diary, and documents that she understands could irrevocably change the lives of her friend Marshall and his family, whose ancestors were enslaved by the Belvideres. As Marshall is posted in England in preparation for a military invasion on the continent, he makes a choice that will have repercussions for his family, the community of No Creek, and his friend Joe who is stationed with him.
As Minnie and Celia each passionately pursue justice, they realize that they can’t control their own lives or the fate of others. Still, they do what they can, depending on God for help and direction as they try to better the lives of others who are oppressed.
Gohlke’s novel is a book for our times, as many of the social justice abuses of the historical periods she delves into are still evident today. A Hundred Crickets Singing, despite its at-times tragic subject matter, ends on a note of Christian hope as people of different races make small steps to live together in harmony. (Tyndale House Publishers)