"Until we see these small victories from just ordinary people, not the freedom rider sort of heroes, we can’t realize Dr. King's dream."

When Jon Zachery transfers to Meridian, Mississippi, for flight training at his new duty station, he unwittingly places his young family in the crosshairs of racial tension. Amid intense neighborhood unrest fueled by an active KKK, Jon's family must find a way to live in peace while upholding their principles. Jon and his wife are shocked by the violent displays of hatred and racism in their new home in the Deep South of 1960s America. When they choose to sit beside a young African-American woman in church, their act is viewed as agitation and insult, and the KKK targets them. Jon's service in Vietnam also provides an important backdrop to this in-depth story of social upheaval and the plight of one family living through this deeply impactful period of American history.

With nuance and multiple perspectives, Zerr explores the motivations and violent actions of racist white southerners determined to hold onto power and prevent the social change spurred by the civil rights movement. Zerr gives voice to these people and develops the full range of their deep hatred through shocking language and horrifying violence. He counters their deep-seated racism with civil rights activists and ordinary folk like the Zachery family, who strive to change hearts and minds in their neighborhoods. Jon is a fully realized character whose roles as soldier, husband, and father are all equally explored through his military life, home life, and neighborhood.

Combining military history and social justice of the 1960s, Zerr skillfully tells a story rich in detail and tense with propulsive action. With so much conflict, the narrative rides a wave of tension that builds to a climax of violence, leaving lessons to be learned in its wake. For example, he illuminates the harsh reality of sundown towns and shows the risks activists take to create change. Stories like this help readers understand their past, bringing disturbing truths to light and revealing how differences keep people apart but can sometimes show them their best selves. It is often the actions of ordinary people standing up to hatred in small towns and on main streets that generate change over time.

Fans of John Grisham might enjoy this story. Like Grisham's strong settings with characters who refuse to be mere onlookers in life, Zerr takes readers deep into a time and place and brings it to life, never backing down from authentic depictions of racial unrest while also capturing the realities of military life and flight training. This story is bursting with descriptive detail and reveals the complexities of a life and family committed to military service and accountable to the demands of commanding officers. Engaging and affecting, this riveting story delivers strong themes about racial tension, war, and family. Zerr adeptly portrays a range of characters who are flawed, conflicted, angry, heroic, and fearless. He brings to life characters on both sides of the racial divide in this moving tale of one family's reckoning with hate. Their fates progress as the story moves to a satisfying conclusion where good may not prevail in the short term, but hope for the future abounds.

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