If Sons, Then Heirs by Lorene Cary
Published by Atria, an imprint of Simon & Schuster
Every Easter, Rayne Needham makes his way down to his Nana Selma’s place, to help her around the heir property she has held for the family since the death of her husband, King, Rayne’s great grandfather. Rayne wants nothing more than for Selma to sell the land, so she can live out her last years in something closer to luxury. It turns out, though, that the fact that this is heir property – an arrangement common among African American farming families in the South – complicates everything. Selma is not the sole owner of the land, really not the owner at all, but all of King’s progeny, and that of his brothers, are equal owners.
Rayne’s attempt to unravel the reality of the situation with the land coincides with and feeds into his finally learning some of the most disturbing of his family’s history, and the reuniting of what has been, until this point, a rather dysfunctional family. Told largely through the eyes of the increasingly frail Selma, and through bits and pieces from other family members, the Needham’s family history is told in a largely nonlinear fashion. This unmooring in time and repetition of certain family lore gives increased weight to what Rayne finds in his family’s past.
Although it took me some time to become invested in the lives of the Needham family – mostly because of the jumping between multiple family members – the history and the issue of heir property, which is still an problem for many families, absolutely fascinated me. I ended up extremely engaged, and really enjoying the If Sons, Then Heirs.
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