A masterful novel that confronts the dilemmas of race,
family, and forbidden love in the wake of America’s Civil War.
Fifteen years after the publication of his acclaimed novel Mason’s Retreat, Christopher Tilghman
returns to the Mason family and the Chesapeake Bay in The Right-Hand Shore.
It is 1920, and Edward Mason is making a call upon Miss Mary
Bayly, the current owner of the legendary Mason family estate, the Retreat.
Miss Mary is dying. She plans to give the Retreat to the closest direct
descendant of the original immigrant owner that she can find. Edward believes
he can charm the old lady, secure the estate, and be back in Baltimore by
Instead, over the course of a long day, he hears the stories
that will forever bind him and his family to the land. He hears of Miss Mary’s
grandfather brutally selling all his slaves in 1857 in order to avoid the
reprisals he believes will come with Emancipation. He hears of the doomed
efforts by Wyatt Bayly, Miss Mary’s father, to turn the Retreat into a vast
peach orchard, and of Miss Mary and her brother growing up in a fractured and
warring household. He learns of Abel Terrell, son of free blacks who becomes
head orchardist, and whose family becomes intimately connected to the Baylys
and to the Mason legacy.
The drama in this richly textured novel proceeds through
vivid set pieces: on rural nineteenth-century industry; on a boyhood on the
Eastern Shore of Maryland; on the unbreakable divisions of race and class; and,
finally, on two families attempting to save a son and a daughter from the
dangers of their own innocent love. The result is a radiant work of deep
insight and peerless imagination about the central dilemma of American history.
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