About the Book: A historical romance novel set in the 1920s in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Son of a Preacherman depicts the highly segregated life of African Americans in the Greenwood District, in Northern Tulsa and the tensions leading up to the Tulsa Race Riots.
Billy Ray Matthias is the handsome younger son of the church’s new pastor. Benny is the daughter of an oil rich family. Billy Ray is convinced that Benny is the woman God would have him settle down with. Benny, on the other hand, recently had her heart broken. She is not the least bit interested in getting involved anytime soon. As Billy’s pursuit of Benny intensifies, so does the political and social climate in the prosperous African American neighborhood known as the Greenwood District..
Racial tensions in Tulsa escalate when Dick Rowland, a black man, is accused by a local newspaper of raping Sarah Page, a white woman, on an elevator. Benny’s brother Ethan and a radical white attorney by the name of Maynard Vaughn despite continuous threats put their weight and energy behind helping Dick. Meanwhile, the White Glove Society, a racist group seeks to destroy not only Dick but all the African Americans in this successful black owned community. As tensions come to a head and violence breaks out, Billy and Benny are caught up in the heat of chaos. He vows to keep her safe but will Benny let him? And will faith in God be enough to sustain the people of the community as their lives are being changed forever by deadly acts of hatred?
This is a book that speaks on so many levels, with beautiful detail and description delivered in a smooth, near-conversational style. While the book feels like it will be simply about the romance of two people in the midst of turmoil and prejudice; but it envelops several different families, and details their lives, dreams and struggles in the segregated and tense times leading to the Tulsa Race Riots of 1921.
While the romance between Billy and Benny is sweet and almost tentative: he knows that she is the woman for him, she is guarded and unwilling to take a chance on the new preacher’s son, and the interaction between the two is a sweet dance that slowly melts her reserve.
Throughout the book, Ms. Banks manages to portray the tension and the tone of the times: the attitudes toward blacks, women, and even the positive and negative effects of the religion on the attitudes and actions of the townspeople. She pulls no punches, the language and attitudes are harsh, the violence is brutal. And every last word has the reader transfixed, to see what will happen next. Seamlessly interweaving the historical facts with bits of fictionalization to fit the events into the story she has crafted, this book manages to deliver a history lesson as it entertains. After you put the book down, you then realize it has informed your views on race and segregationist behaviors, as well as have you questioning why you have never heard of these riots before.
What I can say is that this book far exceeded any possible expectation I could have had for it, and did so with such grace and elegance in presenting characters that seemed to step from the pages, as real and three dimensional as you or I. A spectacular read with a little something for everyone.
I received a copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review, and all conclusions are my own responsibility.