In Amelia’s family, there is no past.
But when her father vanishes in Mississippi, history rises from the dead. In a town where the Confederacy endures and secrets never die, Amelia must unearth her family’s lost identity and connection with a bloody African-American massacre—before the past silences her forever. UNDERGROUND RAILROAD meets DEATH OF MRS. WESTAWAY.
The Klan murdered Napoleon’s family on a Saturday afternoon.
The day was born cloudless and blue. Warm, but with a gentle breeze that blessed Napoleon’s skin.
A day the Lord created, his mother had said.
Later, Napoleon believed it was cursed by the Devil.
His mother kneeled in the backyard of their whitewashed pinewood house. She wore a roughspun dress and a wide, floppy hat, and she worked a trowel into the earth with her gloved hands. Beneath the shade of an old oak tree, Napoleon’s sister Sandrine, almost a year old, sat on a blanket, cooing as she cradled her straw doll. Every so often, she’d plant her feet and struggle to stand. Any day, she’d take her first steps.
Napoleon sat on the porch, listening.
Locusts droned, and wind crept through the leaves overhead. But the woods were mostly still. No birds sang; no squirrels bickered over unseen food. And there was no sound of Zeke Freeborn’s footsteps coming down the lane.
At the beginning of summer, Zeke and Napoleon sliced their forefingers, mingled their blood, and pledged friendship forever. Zeke had curly hair, brown eyes, and skin the color of weak tea spilled on a white tablecloth. He was high yellow—but not as light as Napoleon. Napoleon was mulatto, with skin the shade of buttermilk and eyes the color of newborn oak leaves.
Napoleon’s skin prickled. Zeke was never late.