Thursday, April 06, 2023

Anywhere You Run by Wanda Morris is a tense thriller of the 1960s South

Whether you’re seeking a cracking thriller, an empowering portrait of sisterhood, or a story steeped in the Black experience in the 1960s Deep South, Morris’s second novel delivers. Violet and Marigold Richards, women in their twenties, both need to flee their hometown of Jackson, Mississippi, for different reasons.

After shooting the white man who assaulted her, Violet knows justice won’t take her side, so she grabs her late mother’s carpetbag, a .38 pistol, and her white boyfriend’s wallet and escapes by bus, landing in the small town of Chillicothe, Georgia, where her cousin lives.

Forced to defer her law school dreams after an unwanted pregnancy, Marigold, who works with the Mississippi Summer Project to register Black voters, feels she has no choice but to marry her longtime admirer and move with him to Cleveland, where African Americans are supposedly treated better. She comes to regret it.

Plus, there’s someone on their trail: a man with escalating determination who pursues one sister to track down the other and reclaim an item belonging to the person who hired him. He isn’t a cardboard villain—he’s lured by money to help his wife and ill son—and this multidimensional view heightens tension.

Like all skilled historical novelists, Morris creates an immediately graspable period atmosphere while illustrating its impact on her characters. Despite the Civil Rights Act’s recent passage, Violet (who calls herself Vera to hide her identity) sees for herself how little has changed. Chillicothe does have its problems, but Violet finds a home there.

While telling a galvanizing story with present-day relevance, Morris slows the pace down when needed to explore the sisters’ quest to flee their pasts—and the men who don’t deserve them—and claim their rightful place in the world.

Anywhere You Run was published by William Morrow in 2022; I reviewed it initially for the Historical Novels Review.  It was named one of the year's best crime novels by the NY Times.

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