Home Across the Road

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In her second novel Home Across the Road, Nancy Peacock relies on the Southern tradition of storytelling to explore the issues of race, family, and history, fashioning a compelling and well- written novel. Born in 1912, China, the black Redd who begins and ends the narrative, realizes the importance of telling stories as a means of preserving one's history and of avoiding erasure. As she says, “We all have our history.”

The family's story begins with the slaves Cally and Tom, cotton field workers, and the child Cleavis born of Cally and fathered by Jennis Redd, the owner of the North Carolina plantation Roseberry, who paid unwelcome late night visits to Cally. Unjustly accused of stealing a pair of abalone and gold earrings from the plantation house, six-year-old Cleavis is sold. From then on the earrings take on an almost mythical significance for the next five generations of the black Redds.

Over the next one hundred years the two families remain connected because although slavery ends, the black Redds continue to serve the white family, at first because of the hope that Cleavis would return, later because there is no opportunity elsewhere.

Cursed by their family's participation in slavery, the White Redds, much like Roseberry itself, decline over the generations. Until finally a cold wind in August kills the last white Redd, a wind that is symbolic of Tom's long ago sigh of pain and desperation engendered by his utter powerlessness as a slave to protect his family. As the white Redds weaken over time, the black Redds grow stronger, and China's grand-daughter Abolone, her name an unintentional misspelling of abalone, ends the pattern of subservience.