It’s been almost a year since I met author Mary Glickman at her Chicago reading for One More River (Open Road, 2011) and Home in the Morning (Open Road, 2010), two novels in her series about Southern Jews in 1920s-1960s.
It was during this talk that I learned about book three in the series, Marching to Zion (Open Road, 2013), which back then was still a work in progress. It comes out in November, but I was so fortunate to receive a review copy.
To start, it was well worth the wait! Marching to Zion is probably my favorite book in this series, although I loved all three. The difference with this one is that the biracial relationship (which she includes in all three books) involves a Jewish woman and an African American man.
The story takes place in 1920s and 30s East St. Louis and Memphis, with a little sprinkling of Mississippi. Mr. Fishbein runs a funeral home for African Americans in East St. Louis and has few friends and acquaintances. His daughter Minerva has a temper as fiery as her red hair. His dutiful undertaker, George, keeps the business going. And when George meets and marries a woman named Mags, the business thrives more than ever.
But tragedy strikes the Fishbein Funeral Home during a week of riots that are all too reminiscent of the pogroms Fishbein and Minerva left behind in the old country. Fishbein’s business partner and right hand man, Magnus Bailey, is African American and the only person young Minerva will listen to. As Minnie, as Magnus Bailey nicknames her, grows into a young woman, she falls in love with Bailey.
And the feelings on his part are mutual.
But Bailey knows that a relationship like theirs will end in the death of one or both of them. So he runs away, leaving Minnie heartbroken. Minnie sets out to find Bailey and soon meets with trouble on the road that will forever scar her.
What follows is a story of betrayal, forgiveness and heartache that Mary Glickman has done before in her first two books. But in Marching to Zion, she really digs deep into her characters’ emotions. There are few happy endings in this book, but they seem realistic and true to the times.
Another difference between this and the first two books in the series is that the Jewish community is not central to the book. Aurora Mae Stanton, a major character in One More River, returns in this one. That’s another thing I love about Mary Glickman’s series. The stories all stand on their own, but at least one character in each book can be found in another book in her series.
I’m not sure which book I would recommend reading first, but you really can’t go wrong with Marching to Zion.