Review: Forsaken

Posted on January 14, 2016

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Forsaken coverForsaken
By Ross Howell Jr.
New South Books
February 2016
304 pages

On March 18, 1912, in racially segregated Hampton Roads, Virginia, 18-year old Charlie Mears was a cub reporter for the Times-Herald when Ida Belote’s murdered body was discovered by her daughters, Harriet and Sadie. Virginia (Virgie) Christian, a young black girl who washed clothes for Mrs. Belote, was found with the dead woman’s purse and quickly arrested for her murder. While covering the case for the newspaper, Charlie was troubled by the lack of a thorough investigation and the presumption of Virgie’s guilt. Through his many visits to her jail cell, he learned she was an illiterate 16-year old girl with a very limited understanding of her dire circumstances, none of which was taken in account by the jury of 12 white men. And so, even though she was a child and mentally incompetent to stand trial, she was convicted of first degree murder and died in the electric chair the day after her 17th birthday.

Virginia Christian bears the tragic legacy of being the only female juvenile executed in Virginia. Even though Forsaken is a work of historical fiction, it is based on the true story of one of the most infamous and sensational murder trials and executions in the early 20th century. Author Ross Howell allows this compelling story to unfold through the eyes of Charlie Mears, a young white reporter who became so deeply entangled with the individuals involved in the case that his life was threatened and forever altered. Howell’s attention to not only the details of the case but also the time and place in history draw readers into this gripping drama in which southern sensibilities cover up a ruthless underworld of brutal racism. Forsaken reveals the smoldering traditions of in-bred, hard core racial bigotry that fan the flames of the vicious hatred and racial discrimination we are witnessing these days, a hundred years later. ~ Copyright (c) 2016 by Peggy Tibbetts

 

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