Voices from the Past

The recent flurry of concern about Harper Lee’s newly discovered prequel to/early version of To Kill a Mockingbird reminded me of a book I’d read and loved a few years ago. Elizabeth Spencer is better known for A Light in the Piazza, which was made into a movie and more recently a Broadway play. But her Voice at the Back Door is, in a very true sense, the book that came before To Kill A Mockingbird.

Published in 1956, Voice at the Back Door addresses the burdens of racial divisions in a Mississippi hill county. It is beautifully written with evocative descriptions and characters you care about. A review in The New Yorker called it a “practically perfect novel.”

Beyond that, this book is an example of authorial courage. Ms. Spencer, who lived in Mississippi, was reviled after the publication and moved to Italy. Eventually, she moved back to the US but never back home. The Voice at the Back Door is in my “permanent collection.” I lend it out and if it’s not returned, I buy another. If you haven’t read it, I hope you’ll find a copy soon.

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About Patricia Dusenbury

Patricia Dusenbury grew up in the Northeast, went to college in the South, and married a southerner. After a lifetime on the east coast, she recently moved to San Francisco. In her previous career, Pat was an economist and the author of numerous dry publications. She is hoping to atone by writing mystery stories that people read for pleasure. The Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition named A Perfect Victim, Book 1 of her Claire Marshall trilogy, 2015's best mystery. Book 2, Secrets, Lies & Homicide, was a finalist for the 2016 EPIC award. Book 3, A House of Her Own, is out and completes the trilogy. The first book in Pat's new series, working title Two Weeks in Geary, is a Claymore Award finalist. When she isn’t writing, Pat is reading, gardening, babysitting or exploring San Francisco, the fabulous city that is now her home.
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