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Praise for Eden Rise

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Norrell draws upon his expertise as a historian as well as personal experiences in this gripping tale set in his native Alabama. He provides an acute assessment of a small town where the mean-spirited outnumber the well-intentioned and fat lies often triumph over the lean truth. Although the living is not easy in cotton country, the beauty of the land sustains the author as does the hope that “no lie could live forever.”
I’m not sure that I always believe in voodoo conjuring, but somehow Robert Norrell has summoned the exemplary storytelling voices of both Harper Lee and John Grisham, then swirled them into one of the best Civil Rights-era novels I’ve read since Lewis Nordan’s Wolf Whistle. Mr. Norrell knows the landscape, the people, and the inexorable beliefs of 1960s Alabama. I guarantee that anyone who reads the first chapter will postpone whatever he or she has planned--childbirth, major surgery, a family reunion--in order to find out what happens to Tom McKee.
Jeff Norrell is widely recognized as one of the nation's leading scholars of Southern and African-American history. Not surprisingly his novel about a young Alabama college student caught in the middle of a violent racial altercation in the early 1960s captures the time and place with perfect pitch. But this is more than a lesson in the history of the 1960s, it is a gripping story that combines the courtroom theatrics of John Grisham with the family dynamics of Gail Godwin.
A noted scholar of Southern history and of U.S. race relations, Norrell is also a fine fiction writer. His keen sense of place and the nuances of character take the reader vividly back to the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s. Norrell dramatizes the repercussions of the Selma-to-Montgomery March that ripple through the web of friends and family. As the nation is divided by racial conflict, the powerful McKee family is also torn asunder. Tom McKee battles to save himself, his family and friends, and his region from the cancer of racism in this painfully realistic and haunting tale.
Marshall Frady wrote "One of the most familiar stories of the Sixties was that of the solitary earnest white southerner who wound up involved, from whatever prompting, in the Movement in his hometown, and quickly found himself ruined and outcast." Jeff Norrell's Eden Rise is just such a story. It shows that such southerners were not, alas, entirely solitary. Norrell is at his best in showing the family relationships that produce such individuals and are severely strained by their improvised heroics. These family encounters are moments of revelation which compare favorably with unforgettable scenes from that classic of American literature, Mockingbird. Eden Rise is a good book.
Norrell”s greatest achievement in Eden Rise lies in using his firm grasp of the grand, tumultuous sweep of history to anchor and enrich his sensitive portrayal of those who were caught up in it. He is not the first historian to try his hand at fiction, but he is one of the few who have made the transition seem so much easier than it really is.
Robert J. Norrell’s Eden Rise offers a dramatic and beautifully written examination of racial injustice and violence in the South during the tumultuous 1960’s. Though the central events of the novel take place during a single summer decades ago, this story of the bonds of friendship and family -- and of the courage and sacrifice those bonds can require -- is both riveting and important. In Eden Rise Robert J. Norrell demonstrates that he’s not merely a profoundly insightful historian, he’s a first-class novelist as well.
Norrell writes with the authority of an eyewitness as he populates the small community of Eden Rise with characters whose flaws make them familiar and approachable -- yet sometimes exasperating. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, their voices and actions are authentic. Eden Rise provides a roller coaster of emotions. [Norrell] shines light on the desperate actions of real people during a watershed moment of American history. He writes like only someone who was there in rural Alabama in the 1960s can write -- and proves he can love both the sinner and the saint.
Norrell is not only a historian but a gifted storyteller, and does an excellent job of bringing a large and diverse cast of characters to life. [H]e has a keen eye for the details of the places he writes about. This may seem like a much worked-over subject, but this author has a clear understanding of the people on both sides of an issue which has never really gone away.
From the opening lines to the last, Norrell crafts a gripping novel that not only opens our eyes to the injustices many African Americans suffered during the civil rights era, but it also shows us a darker truth about what it was like to be a Southern white man who sympathized with their plight. A fast-paced, action-packed read, “Eden Rise” is a believable look at a terrible reality: the American South in the 1960s.
A dark moment in the history of America's civil rights struggle is dramatized in a new novel by a noted Southern historian. Eden Rise deftly catches the flavor of its period,
A fast-paced, action-packed read.
Robert J. Norrell’s new novel of race, violence, and injustice in 1960s Alabama is a thoughtful and captivating tale in the best tradition of the Southern courtroom drama. Eden Rise is a well-constructed story set against a well-researched historical background. A moving read.