Attica Locke’s magnificent new novel, Heaven, My Home... is set on the side of a lake where this small community struggles to survive, encroached on by angry white men who deal in drugs and stolen goods. Into this unstable situation comes Darren Matthews, a Texas Ranger from Houston sent to investigate the disappearance of a nine-year-old white boy. From the outset, the case is racially charged. The boy’s father is a senior figure in a white supremacist group, and Matthews knows his boss is playing politics by sending a black ranger to work with the local police. The slights he suffers are breathtaking, offering insights into what it’s like to be on the receiving end of calculated racism, and his loyalties are torn when the chief suspect turns out to be an elderly black man. Locke’s novel is set in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, and shines an unflinching light on an ugly side of contemporary America
Attica Locke’s debut Black Water Rising created a literary sensation, and at a stroke she became the most celebrated African-American writer of crime fiction. Although her books are about the black experience in the US, they are universal in scope... It’s late 2016, after the election of Donald Trump, and the racial situation in the area is incendiary. Can Darren — despite the colour of his skin — get to the bottom of things? The incoming administration’s sympathetic attitude towards white supremacists is present but this is no diatribe — the author remains primarily a consummate storyteller.
Heaven, My Home is a propulsive and compelling novel, worthy of comparisons to Walter Mosley. The story whips along towards a resolution so neat and tidy that it skates very close to cliche, but Locke’s exploration of Matthews’s predicament digs deep into the tension between “the impulse to police crimes against black life and to protect black life from police”. It is buttressed by passages of gorgeous lyricism, with loving, elegiac evocations of Texas set alongside extended meditations on displacement, reconciliation and forgiveness, and on what “home” means in a place where it’s an idea you can’t “exactly touch”.
anyone who has read the two Porter novels she has written so far, Black Water Rising and Pleasantville, will know that Locke is a writer who can decant a whole mess of problems into a richly layered, involving and evocative read. She peppers her prose with Southern speech without sounding hokey — the missing boy’s mother, for instance, has a voice that’s “husky, like aged molasses that had crystallized and developed sharp edges”.