Verdict: THE RED FIELD is a stunner, effectively combining the supernatural with social commentary on a reactionary South in the 1920s.
THE RED FIELD is a stunner. In this tale of a descendant of female witches (not of the black kind) who wants out of her familial duties of casting spells designed to protect her region and heal its inhabitants, Jason Taylor Morgan merges the reluctant hero theme who jettisons their amoral cynicism (typified by the Humphrey Bogart character in Casablanca) with outraged social commentary toward the repressive South of the 1920s.
Morgan reminds us that not every region was populated by flappers who rebelled against the religious fundamentalism of the day with gin guzzling and back seat sex in automobiles. Morgan wisely chooses the Appalachian country for his setting, whose mountains literally “protect” this sexist society of Bible-thumping males and their female enablers and/or their female victims from any liberalizing factors.
But Morgan doesn’t let the North off the hook, and despite his Northern background, exhibits no regional superiority toward the South. To example Northern brutality inflicted on the region during the Civil War, he creates a scene in which 25 magically-powered relatives known as the Johnson women are massacred while hiding in their family cemetery by the armies of the self-righteous and blood-thirsty General Sherman.
Forever more, this blood-soaked cemetery will be known as “The Red Field,” which is haunted by the slaughtered who fit the definition of ghosts as “spirits who won’t stay dead” until justice is done. The story then shifts to 1928, an era of continued racism with a heavy-dose of the era’s resurrected Bible-thumping added to the mix. It is here in the Appalachian mountains that we find the last of the Johnson women, Ruby, who refuses to carry on her familial tradition of practicing magic. She does however honor the tradition of over-seeing the Johnson cemetery, which her ghostly ancestors have turned into a “red light” zone containing the healing and protective power of their magic.
That Ruby wants out is apparent when she doesn’t resort to her powers against her reactionary and repressive society or to alleviate her overwhelming teenage duties of running her family, Scarlett O’Hara-like, composed of five younger siblings and a grandfather in the throes of dementia. Ruby’s journey from trying to escape her destiny to accepting it makes her someone to root for in the same manner as the appealingly reluctant heroes who today populate stories and films.
THE RED FIELD is impressive. Morgan has fulfilled the difficult balancing act of applying social commentary toward a repressive era where Southerner community “leaders” refused to transcend their prejudices; with the other-worldly themes of the supernatural genre.
~Ron Capshaw for IndieReader