14 February 2014

Imprint Friday: The Secret of Magic by Deborah Johnson

The Secret of Magic by Deborah JohnsonWelcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Amy Einhorn Books. Stop by most weeks to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.

Deborah Johnson addresses a number of sensitive issues in her new novel, The Secret of Magic, the most obvious being race relations in the Deep South during the postwar years, just before the civil rights movement took on a powerful life of its own. I was initially attracted to Johnson's novel because it is loosely based on real events.

Here's the publisher's summary:

In 1946, a young female attorney from New York City attempts the impossible: attaining justice for a black man in the Deep South.

Regina Robichard works for Thurgood Marshall, who receives an unusual letter asking the NAACP to investigate the murder of a returning black war hero. It is signed by M. P. Calhoun, the most reclusive author in the country.

As a child, Regina was captivated by Calhoun’s The Secret of Magic, a novel in which white and black children played together in a magical forest.

Once down in Mississippi, Regina finds that nothing in the South is as it seems. She must navigate the muddy waters of racism, relationships, and her own tragic past. The Secret of Magic brilliantly explores the power of stories and those who tell them.
Although Regina's initial interest in the murdered veteran is based on her fond memories of Calhoun's children's book, she soon becomes determined to learn the truth of Joe Wilson's death. Thus, against Marshall's advice, she travels to Mississippi to begin an investigation. Once there, she discovers the darker side of the South and the seemingly unbridgeable gap between black and white.

Johnson's strength is in creating an interwoven, multilayered story that connects complex characters and deals with difficult truths. She perfectly captures an era, a season, a people, and a town, telling it as it was, for better or worse. It is clear that The Secret of Magic is personal story for Deborah Johnson, whose grandfather fought in World War II and held Thurgood Marshall in high esteem. That passion shines in her writing.

I love books that evoke strong emotions, and The Secret of Magic fills the bill. Because of this, it would make a fantastic book club pick. The major discussion topics are prejudice, social change, cultural norms, the power of stories, and the courage it takes to stand up for one's beliefs. The Penguin website includes eleven questions, in case you need more ideas.

To learn more about Deborah Johnson, visit her website, where you can learn about her writing and where she'll be touring this spring. You can also find Johnson on Facebook. For more on the background of The Secret of Magic, see Johnson's interview with Chatelaine.

Amy Einhorn Books is a featured imprint on Beth Fish Reads. For more information about the imprint, please read Amy Einhorn's open letter posted here on January 25, 2010, or click the Amy Einhorn tab below my banner photo. To join the Amy Einhorn Books Reading Challenge, click the link.

Published by Putnam / Amy Einhorn Books, 2014
ISBN-13: 9780399157721
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).


rhapsodyinbooks 2/14/14, 7:15 AM  

I can only read books like this once a year or so, because they can be so upsetting. But oh, oh, the very best book (in my opinion) about what Thurgood Marshall did to help bring justice to the South is Devil in the Grove by Gilbert King (which won the Pulitzer Prize). It is non-fiction, but reads like a page-turning suspense novel, and is just amazing.

bermudaonion 2/14/14, 7:19 AM  

This sounds like the kind of book I like too - a story that's full of emotion and based on a true story.

Beth Hoffman 2/14/14, 10:07 AM  

I've had this book on my list since I first heard about it. Terrific review!

Tina 2/14/14, 12:11 PM  

Sounds like a book that will bring forth lots of emotion. I would need to be in the right mood to read it. Then again, Casual Vacancy may not get finished if I can't find anyone i like so....I will check this out.

Vasilly 2/14/14, 1:37 PM  

This sounds like a book that shouldn't be missed. I love the cover. Thanks for the spotlight.

(Diane) bookchickdi 2/15/14, 7:58 AM  

I don't have this book on my radar, but it sounds terrific. I may have to suggest it to my book club as you recommend.

Kailana 2/15/14, 3:48 PM  

I have been planning to read this since I first heard of it, but just haven't got around to it yet.

Becca 2/23/14, 11:08 AM  

I actually met her a couple of weeks ago and she really made me want to read the book even more than I already did! It just sounds so layered.

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