The reviews for Root Magic, Eden Royce’s debut novel, caught my eye. I’ve also noticed this title on a couple of Mock Newbery 2022 list so I made sure it rose to the top of my TBR pile. This story had me intrigued from the graveside opening through to the the final words, “‘That’s okay.” I smiled, full of hope and promise. “I know how to keep a secret.'”
Jezebel Turner and her family live on a South Carolina island. They are of the Gullah Geechee people. Her family chooses to keep the old ways alive. Jez and her twin brother, Jay, have each other. They gather what they need from the salt marsh – shellfish and grasses to be woven into mats and baskets. They work with their grandmother making healing potions, lotions and teas. They help their mother tend the garden and harvest the produce, bringing what’s extra for Mama to sell at market. They enjoy each other and play wherever they can find the time. Summers are full of work and joy, quiet and fun.
But summers end. Gran, the calming anchor of their lives, dies. She has been Jez’s dearest – maybe her only friend. Her final gift to Jez is a treasured rag doll carefully sown from the scraps of their shared life and carrying one of Gran’s final breaths. With almost no time to process her loss, Deputy Collins in on their doorstep threatening to take action for… Jez doesn’t know and she knows she can’t ask either. It is 1963 and white law enforcement are able to act freely in communities of color. In less than a week after the burial and “the visit”, school will begin. This year school will be different too. Jez’ll be skipping to 6th grade, while Jay will travel with their classmates into fifth.
Feeling alone at home…and at school… the twin’s 11th birthday bring some striking revelations. Dinah, the doll walks and that’s not all the magic that is put into motion. Jez and Jay begin to learn about their heritage Uncle Doc. Through his teaching they come to understand the importance of ROOTS, and also the importance of following your heart and believing in the power of ancestral stories
Bravery, kindness, family love and historic truths anchor this incredible story. Wow!