Nubian Circle Book Club

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Eyewitness Book Review

Phyllis Rhodes

M. C. Beamon's sophomore novel, Eyewitness, undertakes the difficult issues surrounding racial prejudice, personal culpability, and redemption. In her novel, a small, secluded Southern town has reluctantly embraced the concept of integration with the construction of the historically African American Beulah Baptist Church in a traditionally Caucasian neighborhood. However, early one summer morning the peacefulness of Emerson Woods is awakened to the smell of smoke, fire, and gunshots to find a church engulfed in flames and a local White resident murdered on its front lawn.

The police question two eyewitnesses that yield differing descriptions of the perpetrator: an upright White citizen describes a White man leaving the scene and an elderly, visually impaired Black citizen describes a Black man fleeing the area. Unfortunately, the personal issues of the investigating officers lead them to arrest and brutalize an innocent black man. The story continues and we eventually learn that police officers, lawyers, sheriff, and the eyewitnesses themselves have varying degrees of pernicious baggage that clouds their "vision" and the ability to "see" the truth. Their impartiality and judgment is blurred by their personal ills. However, each eventually realizes that to solve the murder and to identify the arsonist they must face their problems and work together (instead of against each other), before the truth can be "seen".

Besides a few loose ends surrounding a few of the main character's personal issues, the book moved at a solid pace and was very well written. Beamon's writing style is precise and succinct; the novel is easy to read and the message is clear. The reader walks away with valuable lessons on faith, healing, and transcendental justice. I look forward to reading Ms. Beamon's next release.

NCBC Rating:  3 Stars

December 31, 2002