Rayne was born and grew up in South Carolina . For a time he lived with his mother in New York City but when he was still a young child, she sent him on the train to be raised by his great grandmother Selma . Now, he lives in Philadelphia where he attended college. He lives with his girlfriend, Lillie and her son, Khalil.
Lillie is in nursing school and owns the house they live in. Without Rayne's help, she would have lost her house and probably wouldn't be able to continue in school. Khalil is a bright 7 year-old.
At Easter, Rayne and Khalil head to South Carolina to try to convince Selma to sell the land she's lived on for the past 50 or more years and move into a nursing home. What Rayne finds are laws that prevent Selma selling the land and that he needs to reconnect with a family he doesn't know to make decisions concerning it.
In the process, he discovers facets of his family that he never knew and learns things about himself.
This story takes its readers through Rayne's journey; his finding the mother that abandoned him, his reconnecting with cousins who made fun of him and the love from family he didn't expect. Through this journey the past is brought into the present giving Rayne and those that listen a glimpse of times past, a past that sometimes isn't nice and a past where racial divisions are firmly entrenched into society.
The characters are fantastic. They come to life and by the end of the book feel as if they are part of your family. There are no cardboard or stereotypical characters. Each is unique and multidimensional. From Selma to Khalil, each takes their life's experiences and shares them.
Besides being Rayne's story or his family's story, this is a wonderful story full of recent history that is not normally taught in school. The laws governing Blacks owning land in South Carolina , and much of the south, is different than for White people. This difference is brought out as is the way these laws were manipulated. While the original intent of giving slaves land was good, the former landowners were quick to try to take it back, however they could.
This story quickly gets you involved with the characters and their lives. The complexities that are quickly discovered are explained easily. As scenes shift from to the past and return to the present, the train of thought is not disrupted but continues seamlessly.
Though written about an African American family and the way Blacks were treated in the south, this book is truly one from anyone, from any background and ethnic group. It's more than just a "Black" novel but it's one about family and love.
The critically acclaimed author of Black Ice, Pride, and The Price of a Child offers this deeply moving story of a family’s challenge to reunite, understand the truth about its past, and secure its legacy.
If Sons, Then Heirs sheds light on a uniquely American, largely untold story of African American land ownership, the outmigration from the South, racial violence, and the consequences of past decisions on present realities.
After World War II, Needham family members migrated 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 to bring the family together to save the family land and mend the rift between him and his mother.
Rayne and the other vividly drawn characters face challenges big and small that mirror the experiences of families everywhere. But in the masterful storytelling of Lorene Cary, so distinct and unique are their voices that they will live in the minds of readers long after the last page is read. If Sons, Then Heirs is a tour de force that explores the power of family secrets, bonds, and love. This gripping novel is certain to be on the must-read lists of all who enjoy brilliantly rendered stories of family, love, and American history.