Common Threads II
by L.A. Champagne

"She wanted Liz and Joe to see what the four witnesses, now saw: Beauty, love, and truth."

In postwar America, the news that a young married couple is expecting their first child usually delights everyone who hears it. Most such announcements open doors of potential new homes wide and serve as the foundation of new friendships. In the South, however, most couples belong to the same race. That isn't true for Joe and Liz Allen. Joe is black, and Liz is white. In their native Canada, this is tolerated, but in the Deep South, miscegenation is illegal. An international drive to Joe's new job in Mississippi first introduces them to longstanding generalized racism.

A gifted engineer, Joe strives to prove his skill at his new firm. George Benson is one of the most respected engineers in the region. Joe distinguishes himself before his superiors, but two among his fellow engineers belong to the Ku Klux Klan. He is often targeted for vandalism. Liz remains safe from torment until she enters the hospital to deliver. She bears twin boys—one white, one black. Banished from the white hospital, Liz receives emergency care at one for black people. The Allens' luck seems to improve when Liz, a doctor's daughter, comes into the care of her late father's colleague, Dr. Robert Hathaway. The Allens, Doctor Hathaway, and Joe's sympathetic employer, George, form an unconventional family unit with the twins at its core. But even influential George cannot indefinitely protect Joe from the Klan's ultimately deadly schemes. When tragedy strikes, will bonds not forged by blood hold together those left behind?

In this second installment of her Common Threads Trilogy, Champagne continues the love story between Joe Allen and Liz MacDonald that began in their childhoods. Liz's dismay about blatant racism reflects middle-class white naivete about the extent of such prejudice that persists up to the present day. Although, as a Canadian, Joe is a comparative stranger to discrimination like this, he seems less fazed by it than she, though it is primarily aimed at him. This at least outwardly calm resignation to mistreatment is in keeping with the other facets of Joe's character, a character that most who know him come to admire, regardless of race. He graciously celebrates Liz's success as a teacher when her scores on her certification exam are deemed the highest ever awarded to a teacher in Mississippi.

Champagne lives with spina bifida, which informs her description of an African American child character with the condition. Her regular contact with doctors provided the details for Liz's postpartum difficulties and her complicated ankle fracture that requires the attention of an orthopedic specialist. She got her information for the particulars of Liz's golf game from the same sources. Creating the character of Liz as a teacher let her display her love of English and history. Canada's racial tolerance contrasts starkly with United States bigotry, a fact that is shown clearly in various events in the story.

Though largely forbidden and most often conducted in secret, interracial romances and friendships did unfold in the South in the pre-Civil Rights era. Forbidden love has inspired fiction similar to this, such as Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler and Catherine Ryan Hyde's Say Goodbye for Now, and certain thematic and plot elements are shared in common by the three books. Anyone disheartened by racism past or present or motivated by the current large-scale outcry for social justice will likely find Champagne's narrative keenly relevant.

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