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“Some things just don’t keep well inside this house …”
The summer of 1966 burned hot across America but nowhere hotter than the cotton fields of Mississippi. Finding herself in a precarious position as a black woman living alone, Bernice accepts her brother Floyd’s invitation to join him as a servant for a white family and she enters the web of hostility and deception that is the Kern plantation household.
The secrets of the house are plentiful yet the silence that has encompassed it for so many years suddenly breaks with the arrival of the harvest and the appearance of Jesse and Fletcher to the plantation as cotton pickers. These two brothers, the sons of the house servant Silva, awaken a vengeful seed within the Missus of the house as she plots to punish not only her husband but Silva’s family as well. When the Missus starts flirting with Jesse, she sets into motion a dangerous game that could get Jesse killed and destroy the lives of the rest of the servants.
Bernice walks the fine line between emissary and accomplice, as she tries her best to draw secrets from the Missus’s heart, while using their closeness to protect the lives of the people around her. Once the Missus’s plans are complete, families will be severed, loyalties will be shattered, and no one will come out unscathed.
With a dazzling voice and rich emotional tension, Pale explores the ties that bind and how quickly humanity can fade and return us to primal ways.
A Note From the Publisher
"More than once I had to remind myself to take a deep breath while reading Pale. It's a slow walk through a poetic dream, or rather an inescapable nightmare. Edward Farmer deftly portrays characters that are trapped by choices other people made long ago. A beautiful exploration of the tension between choices and circumstances. The evil of intergenerational racism is revealed by the preference to live in a quicksand of hatred, to choose slow vengeance over breaking free."
-Laila Ibrahim, bestselling author of Yellow Crocus
“Edward A. Farmer's novel, Pale, takes readers on a twisting, turning journey of unexpected passions, forbidden love, and practiced cruelty. His sumptuous prose creates an operatic vision of life on a cotton plantation in 1960s Mississippi, a world on the cusp of great change that many of its characters resist with all their power. Farmer's debut marks the emergence of an exciting new voice in American fiction."
-May-lee Chai, author of Useful Phrases for Immigrants: Stories and Dragon Chica.
“Edward A. Farmer’s Pale is a novel that surges full force into the power of language. The music of the words builds and builds, rendering tension as thick as the humid Mississippi air. The characters overflow with this music, driven by intense passions, often to the point of madness. They try to make melody of circumstance and loss, but instead find only dissonance. Farmer orchestrates this story with the genius of a maestro, only releasing the reader through a deft and lovely resolution in the novel’s final pages. A striking debut by an author to watch.”
-Zach Powers, author of First Cosmic Velocity and Gravity Changes
“Edward Farmer’s powerful debut, Pale, lures you in with its atmospheric prose, grabbing hold gently and then slowly tightening its emotional grip with each page. His main character, Bernice, must navigate Mississippi plantation life circa 1966 with its deeply embedded racism and well-established patriarchy, as well as the complex tensions between both Mr. and Mrs. Kerns and their servants. It’s a beautifully wrought novel, with each character sensitively drawn, exposing the lasting effects of trauma. Farmer is a writer to watch!”
-John Copenhaver, author of the Macavity Award–winning Dodging and Burning
“Farmer’s debut captures the delicate and dangerous lose-lose reality of a person in Bernice’s position…Farmer opens with cotton imagery and returns to it throughout, disallowing any visions of beautiful, puffy whiteness…The story’s rewards and Bernice’s experience are important.”
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