Beautifully written by a white outsider with no connection to the family, Henry Wiencek writes with a respect and a certain sense of wonder about the senior members of the Hairston clan, both black and white.
The Hairstons won the National Book Critics Circle Award for good reason. While taking us through the long and painful history of our country he manages to show us the humanity of the individuals involved. He opens the book with the handshake of two of the senior Hairstons clan, one the descendant of slaves who worked the plantation and the other the descendant of the slave holders. The handshake is friendly, the men seem to like and admire each other. And the author wonders if it's geniune. How could it be? But if it is a true handshake of friendship after years, lifetimes of unimaginable suffereing, then how is it possible? What came to pass? It took Henry Wiencek 7 years of research and interviews with hundreds of family members to answer the question. We have only to pick up the book.