It's the summer of 1952, and Lillian Johnson, just 32, is found dead in her home. She's been suffering from multiple sclerosis and colon cancer, but neither of those caused her death. She died of an injection of Seconol--and it's not clear that she administered it herself.
The prime suspect, indeed the only one, is her friend and physician, Dr. Kate Marlow. And Kate can't prove she didn't, can't even be sure what she did that morning, because she's been experiencing alcoholic blackouts, and doesn't remember that morning before she found herself parked on the road to Static.
Old friend Shenandoah Coleman is a reporter in Memphis now, but comes back to Round Rock to cover the trial--and to reconnect with friends and family she's avoided because of the burden of the Coleman reputation.
Shenandoah has to confront her own past and come to terms with where she came from. Kate has to come to terms with her alcoholism and its effects.
The whole town, in their different ways, are struggling with race and class and social change.
Round Rock is both changed and unchanged since Shenandoah left fourteen years ago. Dr. Kate is much like her father, Dr. Walt, the same dedication to her patients, the same resistance to banks, taxes, and bureaucracy of all kinds, and the same drinking to cope with the stress and demands of being the only doctor in town. But Kate is a woman in the very conventional 1950s, in a southern small town. She's loved, but also hated.
Shenandoah has run all her life from the bad reputation of the drunken, violent Colemans, but on this return home, she starts to see some of her relatives in a different light--and meets some previously unknown relatives, too.
Meanwhile, the trial exposes both the strengths and the strains of the Round Rock community.
This is a lovely, thoughtful, and loving look at the beginnings of a painful transitional time in American life.
I received a free electronic galley from the publisher via NetGalley.