This novel tells the story of three generations of a poor black farming family living in Georgia, USA, in the early to mid twentieth century. Although slavery has long been abolished the Copeland family are far from being free. They are kept in abject poverty by the white landowner, working for next to no pay and kept in broken down farm 'houses' that would not be fit for animals. The landowners pass the family amongst their relatives to work on their farms, as some would do with farm machinery, and feel they are doing the Copelands a favour by "keeping them in the family".
This is a harrowing story that set my emotions on a roller coaster ride. I went from sorrow, to anger, to frustration and horror. The men dominate the women and take all their frustrations out on their family to compensate for their feeling inferior and subservient to the white landowners. There were times I felt elated, thinking the family were finally going to break free of their cruel life (for example when Mem finally had enough of Brownfields beatings and threatened him with a gun) but the mindset and attitude of the people at this time sucked them right back in to the viscous, violent cycle.
This is not an easy story to read; it is written with an honesty that is raw and hurting, but this is a book that is very thought provoking and will stay in your mind forever.