St. Andrews is small and seemingly quiet, which suits Walker Fann just fine. A man of decent instincts if timid disposition, he believes in small-town life, but St. Andrews is no Eden. Once a milltown called Cottondale, the name was changed in 1949 after a notorious riot. As the story opens in the early '90s, the people of St. Andrews are about to vote on whether the old slave market should be turned into a museum. The black leadership believe that the change would revive the downtown area; the whites fear it would only revive the past. Walker has led a privileged life, meanwhile: He's the publisher of the local newspaper and a golfing buddy of the town's movers and shakers. Unlike the rest of his circle, though, he has black friends and has long dreamed of becoming a crusading journalist. But he's also always deferred to his strong- willed father, Big Walker, who now fears that the paper's support of the museum will lead to a loss of advertising. Walker's life is described in part by his dead wife Mattie, who drowned a year before the story begins while the two were vacationing in Italy. Using a ghost as a narrator is a potentially creaky device, but it works here. And when the still-grieving Walker, pursuing the young black boy who stole his favorite baseball mitt, finds himself drawn by his black acquaintances R.J. and Rasheed Aziz into a fight he doesn't want to fightwriting an editorial in favor of the museumMattie is there willing him to do the right thing. Which he eventually does, though not before lives are lost and old friendships tested.
A journey of the soul that warms and cheers.