This beautifully crafted retelling of the biblical story of the Book of Ruth, brought forward to and set in the racially turbulent American south of the 1950s, stays true to the essence of the original.
The story gripped me from the beginning when Annabelle Cross and her two daughters-in-law lose their husbands off the coast of California when their fishing boat capsizes. Following the biblical narrative, one daughter-in-law leaves Annabelle to return to her parents, but native Hawaiian born Connie stays and they both travel to Annabel’s home in Tennessee. Most of the locals are happy to have Annabelle home again, but a few whisper that Connie is mixed-race mulatto.
Figuratively speaking, I wanted to bite my nails when one of Annabelle’s close relatives, a powerful local man who might have be involved in some shady deals, dearly wanted for her to be forced to leave Tennessee and to take that daughter-in-law with her.
Where the biblical Ruth picked wheat, Connie struggles with mourning for her dead husband and hides her pregnancy as she does the back-breaking labor of picking cotton. Alton, who owns the fields (her “Boaz”) takes note and has compassion for her. I loved the relationship of Connie and Alton growing from mutual respect to a deep love.