He returns to West Virginia an angry man, an alcoholic really, who is unable to cope when faced with cruelties in the world. He begins by shutting out the newspaper...he can't bear to hear of other tragedies in the world. As the civil rights struggles heat up, he is shocked and angered by a country that willingly lets blacks fight alongside whites, but then denies them the ability to sit together at a restaurant or on a bus. This disparity eats at him, until he thinks he's found the solution. He sets out to create a utopian community deep in the hills, one that allows people of different races to live side by side, work the land, and form a closeknit family structure, one that he never had. It works out beautifully, for a time. The success he finds eases his injured heart, and he begins to forget the ugliness of the War he fought.
However, word gets out about his community and he's labelled a Communist, and the new community faces its first real challenges: surviving amid the hate from the outside world directed at it. Things begin to go terribly wrong, and the inner person he thought he left behind returns.
This work of fiction is well-written and shows the different ways people try and repent from their sins....Ledford sincerely wants to make things right. The clue though, is that besides the newspaper, he then shuts out television, unable to cope with any sort of evil without taking it personally. It's apparent that he is only comfortable in a made-up world of his own making. When he is outside the community, his personality changes. However, he's a likable character and the story unfolds beautifully. A little too beautifully. His new community seems too ideal, the residents behaving perfectly, and a mutual understanding that is a little bit unimaginable. There are no disputes over housing, work, or food, and the ability for everyone to get along so well was unrealistic. Additionally, I kept wondering where the money was coming from, as money for this community and the new marble factory they build is never an issue. I thought that seemed a glaring omission, and it unsettled me throughout the last half of the novel.
Outside the depictions of war, this is a very peaceful book, a pleasant read that appeals because it represents an ideal most people yearn for. The underlying character study of Ledford is what makes it unique, and shows how complicated people are, and how difficult it is to flee from the past.
Special thanks to Ecco for the Advance Review Copy.