Winner of the 2020 Guernica Prize for Literary Fiction
When the lies of thirteen-year-old Ellie Turner cause a black man’s lynching in 1930s Florida, her younger sister Mavis begins to question the family’s long-held beliefs about race. At the same time, the novel focuses on the courageous story of Sliver, a black midwife whose love for her grandson forces her to flee to Washington DC with the child, and Mavis, in tow. As the novel progresses through the decades, the lives of the three women merge and troubling family secrets are revealed.
The Shade Tree is a dramatic exploration of racial injustice and conflict set against the backdrop of some of America’s most turbulent historical events. The lives of two white sisters and a black midwife are inextricably linked through a series of haunting tragedies, and the characters must make difficult, life-changing decisions about where their loyalties lie: with their biological families or with a greater moral cause. From a Florida orange grove to the seat of power in Washington, DC, during the height of the civil rights movement, The Shade Tree tells a sweeping yet intimate story of racial discrimination and the human hunger for justice.