Sam Ransom, a white Methodist student preacher, finds himself caught up in the civil rights movement and reliving childhood memories when he is sent to pastor several churches in Mississippi, where he grew up. As a child some of his closest friends were black. He rode often with Uncle Giles in his wagon, hauling lumber, and played for hours with Early, even though his parents disapproved. Then there was Sharon. Sharon Rose was a beautiful girl and Sam’s first crush. But in 1950s Mississippi, their friendship could not last beyond childhood, and romance was completely out of the question.
But in 1964, after completing his training in Ohio, Sam is sent back home to preach for the summer. Almost as soon as he enters Mount Pleasant, he senses trouble. The towns he’s to preach in are run by Ku Klux Klan members that terrorize people by night. A local black church was burned to the ground and civil rights workers are arriving to help rebuild, among them Early and Sharon. Sharon is as beautiful as ever and happy to see Sam but Early is tense, anger over all the injustices simmering just beneath the surface. Sam is soon involved with helping to rebuild the church, out of loyalty to his two childhood friends. He also gets involved with Sharon. Both are dangerous things. The Klan will not let them work unchecked and will not tolerate interracial relationships. Before summer’s end, burning crosses, hateful threats uttered by familiar voices, beneath white hoods, and one dark night, will change their lives forever.
TORCHED: SUMMER OF ’64 is a moving and heartfelt tale and author Joe Edd Morris’ vivid, haunting descriptions draw the reader into the time and place of the setting. His characters feel realistic and complex and he does a lovely job conveying the wide range of emotions this story evokes: fear, anger, sadness, love.
Joe Edd Morris’ TORCHED: SUMMER OF ’64 is a well-crafted and heart-wrenching story that shines a light on a dark time in our nation’s history and will leave readers with much to think about.
~Heather Stockard for IndieReader