If Sons, Then Heirs by Lorene Cary
A Novel

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Synopsis

“An absorbing and moving tale” (Publishers Weekly)—a uniquely American story of the consequences of past decisions on present realities.

After World War II, the Needham family moved north to Philadelphia from South Carolina, leaving behind the tragic injustice surrounding the violent death of their patriarch, King. His devoted widow, Selma, remains on the old home place. Over the years, she raises King’s children, including his great-grandson, Rayne, on whom falls the responsibility of bringing the family together, saving the family land, and mending the rift with his mother.

If Sons, Then Heirs is a tour de force that explores the power of family secrets, bonds, and love. Rayne and the other characters face challenges big and small that mirror the experiences of families everywhere. But in the masterful storytelling of Lorene Cary, their voices are so distinct and unique that they will live in the minds of readers long after the last page is read. 
 

About Lorene Cary

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Lorene Cary's new novel Pride (Nan A. Talese/ Doubleday, 1998; Anchor 1999) is told in the voices of four friends-"subtle, idiosyncratic characters...whose personalities seem utterly, and affectingly, distinctive," according to The New York Times Book Review. It also praises the book's ability to shift "between the staccato directness of black slang and the more formal cadences of standard English...."The Price of A Child has been selected as the first city-wide One Book, One Philadelphia choice. The novel traces one woman's escape from slavery and brings alive Philadelphia's Underground Railroad history. A New York Times reviewer called the writer "a powerful storyteller, frankly sensual, mortally funny, gifted with an ear for the pounce [of] real speech," and praised the novel as "a generous, sardonic, full-blooded work of fiction." (Knopf, 1995; Vintage 1996) Cary's first book, published by Knopf in 1991, was Black Ice, a memoir of her years first as a black female student, and then teacher, at St. Paul's, an exclusive New England boarding school. Arnold Rampersad has dubbed it "...probably the most beautifully written and moving African-American autobiographical narrative since Maya Angelou's celebrated I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings." Black Ice was chosen as a Notable Book for 1992 by the American Library Association.Lorene Cary was graduated from St. Paul's School in 1974 and received B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Pennsylvania in 1978. She won a Thouron Fellowship for British-U.S. student exchange and studied at Sussex University. She has received Doctorates in Humane Letters from Colby College in Maine, Keene State College in New Hampshire, and Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia. In 1998 Lorene Cary founded Art Sanctuary, a non-profit lecture and performance series that brings black thinkers and artists to speak and perform at the Church of the Advocate, a National Historic Landmark Building in North Philadelphia. Currently a lecturer in creative writing at the University of Pennsylvania, where she was a 1998 recipient of the Provost's Award for Distinguished Teaching, Cary has lectured throughout the U.S. She began writing as an apprentice at Time in 1980, then worked as an Associate Editor at TV Guide, freelanced for such publications as Essence, American Visions, Mirabella, and The Philadelphia Inquirer Sunday Magazine, and served as Contributing Editor for Newsweek in 1993. In 2002, Cary received the Women's Way Agent of Change Award; in 2001 the Advocate Community Development Corporation's Award for Urban Excellence; in 2000, a Philadelphia Historical Society Founder's Medal for History in Culture; in 1999, the American Red Cross Spectrum Rising Star Award for community service; and in 1995, a Pew Fellowship in the Arts Fellowship. She serves on the usage Panel for The American Heritage Dictionary and the Union Benevolent Association board. Cary is a member of PEN and the Author's Guild. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband, the Rev. Robert C. Smith, and daughters Laura and Zoë.
 
Published April 19, 2011 by Atria Books. 322 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for If Sons, Then Heirs

Kirkus Reviews

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Multiple generations of an extended African-American clan grapple with racism, unfair land laws and each other in this multifaceted family saga.

May 20 2011 | Read Full Review of If Sons, Then Heirs: A Novel

The New York Times

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“All the people on this earth who came from them — all them people — that’s who owns the land.” Inevitably, the land becomes far more than what Rayne has dismissed as “55 acres of South Carolina backcountry.” Like the characters in August Wilson’s play "The Piano Lesson," the Needham cla...

Aug 12 2011 | Read Full Review of If Sons, Then Heirs: A Novel

Publishers Weekly

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As the story begins, Khalil accompanies Alonzo to South Carolina where Alonzo urges the aging Selma to sell her land so they can pay for her long-term care.

Feb 21 2011 | Read Full Review of If Sons, Then Heirs: A Novel

Bookmarks Magazine

Over the years, she raises King’s children, including his great-grandson, Rayne, on whom falls the responsibility to bring the family together to save the family land and mend the rift between him and his mother.

Aug 16 2011 | Read Full Review of If Sons, Then Heirs: A Novel

Star News Online

Both she and he have been burned by bad relationships in the past, and both are hesitant about moving on to marriage – but where, exactly, is their romance heading?Meanwhile, Jewell is trying to reach out to her abusive father, Bobo, who's in prison but is finding a measure of peace throug...

Apr 16 2011 | Read Full Review of If Sons, Then Heirs: A Novel

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