Bright Shadow is a love story. It continues the life of Abyssinia Jackson where it left off at the end of Joyce Carol Thomas’s first novel, Marked by Fire (1982).
Abyssinia is attracted to Carl Lee Jefferson, a fellow student at Langston University. Her father, Strong, does not like the boy because of his family. Carl Lee is the son of the town drunkard. Abby’s mother, Patience, has a sister, Serena, who lives next door to the Jacksons. She is sixty years old and has just married a former minister named Rufus Jordan. This minister, who recently moved to Ponca City, Oklahoma, from Houston, Texas, has an evil look in his eyes. His demeanor and booming voice frighten Abby.
Against her father’s wishes, Abby invites Carl Lee to her house for a visit. Strong tells Carl Lee the story of Abby’s birth. This narration fills in background material from the previous novel, Marked by Fire. It explains the close relationship that Abby has with her Aunt Serena. Strong alludes to another unusual birth, that of Carl Lee, the winter before Abby’s, but drops the subject when Patience gives him a warning look.
A few days later, Abby has a bad dream about Aunt Serena. It leaves her with a feeling of dread. That Saturday, when Carl comes over to help her rake leaves, they visit with her aunt over the fence that separates their two properties. Abby is given a bouquet of blue iris from Serena’s garden. After Carl leaves, Abby tries to find out what her aunt thinks about this new beau. Aunt Serena says that he is a fine boy and that she likes him.
Every day for a week, Carl Lee and Abby observe Serena and her new husband as they go to a nearby cornfield. When they get there, the Reverend Jordan preaches a sermon with only the cornstalks, a scarecrow, and Aunt Serena to hear him. When the moon is at...
(The entire section is 760 words.)