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Until That Good Day Book Review

Phyllis Rhodes

Until That Good Day by Marjorie Kemper is another sorrowful tale of the "tragic mulatto" set in the depression-era South.  In this story, we meet John Osceola Washington, a handsome, dashing traveling salesman, who is a seemingly devoted husband and father in the eyes of the residents of Myrtle, Louisiana.  However, John, as his family before him, are light-skinned blacks who have lived as white citizens since Reconstruction.  John has intentionally married white at the urging of his mother to keep their secret safe.  The psychological pressure and societal restraints prevent him from pursuing his true love, a black woman, Odessa, whom he met on his trade route and has romanced for years.  Odessa and a few other suspecting blacks see through Johns fašade and accept him unconditionally.  The author forebodes that John's luck will hold until that good day when the proverbial dam of lies will break.

True to the formula, tragedy strikes John's home and his white wife, Della, dies leaving the care of his two daughters to John.  He relies on support from his aged mother to care for the girls.  Both she and the girls are miserable under this arrangement.  Then when she passes unexpectedly, he quickly remarries a spoiled, selfish, young socialite with "ghost white" skin, Antoinette, who despises children and black people.  More tragedy ensues and the truth eventually reveals itself (on that good day) in such an obvious event, and it is here we learn the proverbial lesson that people see what they want to see.  The author blends this recurring theme of "turning a blind eye to the truth" in numerous storylines throughout the novel.

This novel is told from varying viewpoints including the Clara and Vivian (the two daughters), Odessa's, Antoinette's, Emmy (the black maid), Gilbert's (the gardener) and Antoinette's mother.  Everyone has both comedic and humbling tales that encourages the reader to continue; however, this is not an action-filled novel and its pace slowed to a lull several times.  Ms. Kemper's story ultimately conveys the strong sense of Southern family values, honor, duty, and racism that was present in John's world and the harsh realities of the time that kept a man from peace and happiness.  A worthwhile read for a hazy Autumn afternoon.

The Nubian Circle Book Club rating for Until That Good Day is 3.5 out of 5 stars.  If you have any questions or comments about this review, please contact us at: