Tracey Gaines is a Yankee who moves to the South to pursue ... she's not exactly sure what ... a change of pace? An escape from her past? At first, the natives are friendly. But then when Tracey survives a vicious dog attack, she learns quickly how most of those friendly faces are just a facade. Tracey tries to do the right things, but meets resistance and hostility wherever she turns.
Well, almost everywhere. She befriends a local teacher, Dave Fordham, who has his own conflicted past. He walks with a limp, and is basically a big wuss. Or at least he looks like one.
What makes this book a joy to read are the real and complex characters. Each person has major flaws, and no one is "good" or "bad." Each person has their own desires and needs, and the events are believable. In fact, when I was done reading, I had to do my own research to see if these events actually did occur. As far as I can tell, it's all fiction--I think.
The only complaint I have is that in one or two places, I thought the stereotypes were a little thick. However, these concerns are small in light of the complex story and the dramatic ending.
I highly recommend this book to all Southerners and Yankees.
P.S. You may wonder why a sci-fi reader like me is reading one of these human-interest stories. Sometimes I just like to take a break and read something more down-to-earth. Valerie Nieman is an author local to my city, and I met her at a couple of functions. When she read from her book, I was hooked. Valerie also happens to write sci-fi as well, and has even hobnobbed with some big-name authors at SFWA meets in the past ... and boy does she have some stories to tell. There's even a little science in Blood Clay ... just a little.