“Some things just don’t keep well inside this house …”
The summer of 1966 burned hot across America but nowhere hotter than the cotton fields of Mississippi. Finding herself in a precarious position as a black woman living alone, Bernice accepts her brother Floyd’s invitation to join him as a servant for a white family and she enters the web of hostility and deception that is the Kern plantation household.
The secrets of the house are plentiful yet the silence that has encompassed it for so many years suddenly breaks with the arrival of the harvest and the appearance of Jesse and Fletcher to the plantation as cotton pickers. These two brothers, the sons of the house servant Silva, awaken a vengeful seed within the Missus of the house as she plots to punish not only her husband but Silva’s family as well. When the Missus starts flirting with Jesse, she sets into motion a dangerous game that could get Jesse killed and destroy the lives of the rest of the servants.
Bernice walks the fine line between emissary and accomplice, as she tries her best to draw secrets from the Missus’s heart, while using their closeness to protect the lives of the people around her. Once the Missus’s plans are complete, families will be severed, loyalties will be shattered, and no one will come out unscathed.
With a dazzling voice and rich emotional tension, Pale explores the ties that bind and how quickly humanity can fade and return us to primal ways.
“[Farmer] excels at atmosphere, using the oppressive heat of summer, the heaviness of the night sky, the sound of the wind through the cotton, and the isolation of the plantation to deepen the feeling of melancholy…Recommended for readers who like quiet, character-driven novels.” —Historical Novels Review
“Pale is such a wonderfully written book. From the wonderful, well-rounded characters to the very descriptive setting and story, I could not help but feel as if I were in the story itself…I could not help but enjoy the journey that the book brought me on, and in a way, I couldn’t help but feel like I learned something new about an era of American history that is often overlooked.” —Portland Book Review
“Secrets and revenge haunt a Mississippi plantation in Pale, the potent debut novel…Readers will hang on each page, just as Bernice feels bound to stay until the story is done. This intergenerational story of racism, patriarchy, and vengeance is one that will not soon be forgotten.” —Shelf Awareness (starred review)
“The book’s poetic yet forthright prose has been compared to the work of Ernest Gaines. It’s an evocative debut for a novelist who surely has a promising career ahead of him.” —Augusta Chronicle
“The plot and writing are evocative of the work of the late Ernest Gaines; it’s a story simply and directly told, and by that simplicity and directness it exposes familial cruelties and kindnesses in equal measure. This is a promising beginning for a writer who, whether he realizes it or not, continues a rich and lyrical narrative tradition. A beautiful first novel.” —Library Journal (starred review)
Edward A. Farmer is a native of Memphis, Tennessee, where he journaled and cultivated stories his entire childhood. He is a graduate of Amherst College with a degree in English and psychology, and recipient of the MacArthur-Leithauser Travel Award for creative writing. He currently lives and writes in Pasadena, California. Pale is his first novel.