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The Twelve-Mile Straight

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3.67  ·  Rating details ·  2,152 ratings  ·  348 reviews
From New York Times bestselling author Eleanor Henderson, an audacious American epic set in rural Georgia during the years of the Depression and Prohibition.

Cotton County, Georgia, 1930: in a house full of secrets, two babies-one light-skinned, the other dark-are born to Elma Jesup, a white sharecropper’s daughter. Accused of her rape, field hand Genus Jackson is lynched
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Hardcover, 543 pages
Published September 12th 2017 by Ecco
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Amanda As far as I could tell he was just fantasizing that part, of having both girls. He never laid a hand on Elma and did have sex with Nan
Debi Hawkes
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Paromjit
This historical Southern Gothic novel set in the depression era and prohibition is a hard read with its relentless depiction of the Jim Crow time. It is 1930 in Florence, Cotton County, Georgia, when a sharecropper's daughter, Elma Jesup, a white single woman, gives birth to the Gemini twins, one baby is white, and the other is 'coloured', an exceedingly strange event. Elma's father, Juke, who sells moonshine, is instrumental in pointing the finger at the good, kind and sweet Genus Jackson as ...more
Angela M
Sep 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Florence , Georgia, Cotton County, The Twelve Mile Straight road in 1930's , depressed times on a farm. Lynching and racism that makes you sick, women abused, deception and lies and secrets, some genuinely evil people. In the midst of it all a "colored" and a white baby are born . They called them Gemini twins, and they wanted you to believe they were born of the same mother at the same time but of two fathers and because of that lie a man is lynched . Up front I have to say this is dark, ...more
Fran
Jul 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
George Wilson owned two hundred acres of land along the Twelve-Mile Straight Road in 1930's Cotton County,Georgia. Additionally, he owned the cotton mill. The Jesups were the principal sharecropping family since the turn of the century. Juke Jesup's daughter Elma and Negro maid Nan lived with Juke in a house provided by George Wilson while Negro pickers like Genus Jackson lived in windowless shacks.

Elma Jesup and Nan grew up together and worked side by side in the cotton and cornfields. Upon the
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Carol
May 25, 2017 added it
Shelves: fiction, e-galley
E-galley provided through the generosity of Edelweiss, Ecco Publishing and Author, Eleanor Henderson, to be published September 12, 2017. A shout-out to Bookseller, Charles Bottomley of Northshire Bookstore, Manchester, Vermont for his recommendation of this forthcoming book.

Eye-brows are raised and tongues are wagging as well you might think they would be when you hear the premise of this story set in 1930’s Cotton County, Georgia. Elma Jessup, the unmarried pregnant daughter of a sharecropper
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Campbell Andrews
May 20, 2017 rated it liked it
I came to respect and appreciate this novel more than it promised in its opening pages. But I never did come around to liking it, exactly. Which I daresay is the author's intent.

Ms. Henderson testifies to this on the back cover: "I wanted to capture the innocence of those country stories, and also to fracture it." Fracture it she does, far beyond a funhouse mirror and into a thousand jagged shards.

This is a punishing book. Oh, it's easy enough to read, and (for the most part) smoothly told in
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Louise Wilson
Jan 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Set in rural Georgia during the years of the Depression and Prohibition. Cotton County, Georgia, 1930: in a house full of secrets, two babies, one light skinned, the other dark, are born to Elma Jesup, a white sharecroppers daughter. Field hand Genus Jackson is accused of her rape. He is lynched and dragged down The-Twelve-Mile-Straight. In the aftermath, the farms inhabitants are forced to contend with their compliantly in a series of events that left a man dead and a family irrevocably ...more
Melissa Crytzer Fry
**3.75-4**

Eleanor Henderson had me hooked from page one – with the mystery of these two babies born with different skin colors (no spoiler – this is part of the book jacket copy). Then she reeled me in with the unimaginable actions of one of the characters against her own daughter. And I had to know: “How on Earth could she…?” and “Why on Earth would she?” And then… other events occur that had me flipping pages for more answers.

The stakes are high early-on in this story that is a reminder of the
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Melissa Crytzer Fry
Apr 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
**3.75-4**

Eleanor Henderson had me hooked from page one – with the mystery of these two babies born with different skin colors (no spoiler – this is part of the book jacket copy). Then she reeled me in with the unimaginable actions of one of the characters against her own daughter. And I had to know: “How on Earth could she…?” and “Why on Earth would she?” And then… other events occur that had me flipping pages for more answers.

The stakes are high early-on in this story that is a reminder of the
...more
Roman Clodia
Dec 28, 2017 rated it it was ok


This got off to an emotive start with the lynching of a young black man accused of raping a white girl who has given birth to twin babies, one white, one black. But this implausible scenario is just the start of a tale which feels predictable, overly melodramatic, and too long. With a narrative which moves back and forth in time and with extended back stories to new characters, the plot seems to circle and stall rather than progress.

The themes, too, can be ticked off on one hand: rape,
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Bamboozlepig
Oct 19, 2017 rated it did not like it
DNF'd this one at the halfway point. I was into it when it first started, but by the halfway point, it seemed like the plot was spinning its wheels in the mud. Part of it was for every character in the novel, there was a lengthy backstory to introduce. The shifts between the character's past and where they were in the current timeline was not handled smoothly.

I also didn't buy the "Gemini twins" angle because it seemed so implausible that people in the area who knew the family would be gullible
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Cathy
Nov 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Find all my book reviews, plus fascinating author interviews, exclusive guest posts and book extracts, on my blog: https://whatcathyreadnext.wordpress.com/

The book is written in a distinctive narrative style which conjures up the period and location in which it is set. From its immensely powerful opening chapter, the book tells a story of poverty, cruelty, prejudice and secrets.

‘There were things no one wanted known by the outside, and no one knew that better than Elma.’
Although it would be
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Diane
Sep 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of the great joys of reading is discovering an debut author whose work just blows you away. Eleanor Henderson did that to me with her 2011 novel Ten Thousand Saints, set in 1987 New York City and Vermont. It is such an amazing book (made into a movie in 2015), I put it on my Most Compelling Books of 2011 list.

I was thrilled to hear that Henderson would be at the Book Expo this year signing copies of her followup novel, The Twelve-Mile Straight. I was first in a long line of people, all eager
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Kristine
May 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
WOW! I was not surprised that this novel was a tough read, given the subject matter, but I was surprised that it was so good! The author made rural Georgia in the 1930s come alive with her descriptions of daily life and the struggles to make ends meet. The characters were well developed, as the story was told from varying viewpoints. The selfishness of human motivations were laid bare in this book, sparing no one. I loved how the truths in the story were revealed slowly, in layers, reaching ...more
Michelle Humbard
Jan 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
I loved this book! It was written with such authenticity that you almost thought it was a work of non-fiction. You can tell the author did a lot of research on the area even down to the cadence in the deep south during that era. It was uncomfortable to read about the mistreatment of many of these characters as the author makes you feel like you are right in the room. Well done!
Bibliophagist89
Feb 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
The book was based on Florence, Georgia, Cotton County, The Twelve Mile Straight road in 1930's, depressed times on a farm. Lynching and racism that makes you sick, women abused, deception and lies and secrets, some genuinely evil people. In the midst of it all a "coloured" and a white baby are born . They called them Gemini twins, and they wanted you to believe they were born of the same mother at the same time but of two fathers and because of that lie a man is lynched . Up front I have to ...more
KC
I would like to thank Harper Collins/ECCO and Eleanor Henderson for the advanced readers copy in exchange for an honest review. 1930 Cotton County, Georgia and a young Elma Jesup finds herself pregnant. She gives birth to twins but to everyones surprise including her own, her daughter is light skinned and her son is dark skinned. The townspeople accuse local farmhand Genus Jackson of raping her. Genus is lynched, dragged by truck down the twelve-mile straight and then dumped in the town square. ...more
Sarah at Sarah's Book Shelves
Thanks to Edelweiss and Ecco Books for an advanced copy of this book.

After reading the first chapter of this doorstop of a historical fiction novel, I thought I was going to love it. It had a great first line, was hard-hitting, and hooked me immediately.

But, the story just went on and on and on. I felt like I was reading this book for weeks (it was actually 10 days). Henderson told the extended backstories of seemingly almost every character in the book, which could have been cut back. I just
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Lisa
Oct 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I’ve read this year.
Esme Kemp
Feb 26, 2019 rated it it was ok
White nonsense. Also I’m sick to DEATH of reading about women being passively raped and black women being passive victims of psychological and physical abuse at the hands of white men. It’s set post-abolition so at first I was drawn in, thinking it would be something new, but the minute I realised it was another white author writing for white audiences it was eye-roll city. At what point does the narrative of slaves/post-segregation/white authors using the language of colonialism/wide scale ...more
Emily Grace
Mar 22, 2018 rated it it was ok
First, I'd like to thank Ecco for the giveaway and Goodreads for hosting it! I'm so very grateful for the chance to pick this book up!

While I didn't particularly enjoy this book there was nothing inherently wrong with it, the writing was beautiful, the characters interesting, I would even go so far as to say the non-linear plot was expertly crafted. I felt immersed while I was reading it but as soon as I put it down it felt like a chore to pick it back up, I think this is due to two main
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Suzan
Sep 26, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Overly long, aimless story.

Very slow moving book that meanders around issues and story lines. We move back and forth through people's lives to get back stories and it's often confusing and difficult to keep the characters straight. The story is consistently violent, particularly towards women. It felt as though the only fully developed female characters had to be brutally raped at one point in their lives. The book starts with so much energy, but the. It slows to a snails pace. Disturbing
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Lee
Apr 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I don't know where to start, I loved this book SO MUCH. How Ms. Henderson can be in the mind of so many people and write like she was there just astounds me. She made me feel I was there in this tale of poverty, hate, prejudice, and just plain evil. Mixed ancestry incest rounds out the story. Not for the faint hearted, but not to be missed.
Amy
Jan 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
When I finished the last page of this book I had to hold still for several minutes to let it all sink in. The characters will stay with me and I will puzzle over them for a long time. An unforgettable book.
Shirley Freeman
Well this was intense. It's the saga of the intertwining lives of rich white, poor white, and poor black people living in rural Georgia in the 1930s. Two babies, one white and one black, are born on a sharecropper's farm. Secrets are kept and secrets are unraveled. We learn about polio and sickle-cell anemia and chain-gangs. There are lynchings, rape, love and cowardice and violence. A few people do the right thing and many do not - and many times the 'right' thing is hard to discern. This is a ...more
Sudalu
May 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Set in the deep South of Georgia, this expertly written novel brings to light 1930's troubled times. We are intimately shown the complex relationships between a wealthy landowner, his hired farm hand and his negro housekeeper as well as their families. The characters are so complex and multi-layered. You feel for them sometimes and can sympathize while other men are just true monsters. So well written I felt like I was part of the world they lived in. One lie to protect the name of the farm hand ...more
Jessica Jeffers
Jul 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley, fiction
I got about halfway through this,but it was a little too slow to hold my attention.
Amy Layton
Sep 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
First of all, wow. What a book. This novel totals more than 500 pages, and each and every one of you will leave you feeling shock, despair, and everything in between.

At face value, this novel is many things. It is engaging, arousing, and at times, horrific. Which is what makes a great novel, right? Within these pages, we follow many characters from before, during, and after Genus Jackson's murder. Family histories are intertwined with each other, secrets are unfolded, and the future is
...more
Breakaway Reviewers
During the Great Depression life is hard in Cotton County, Georgia.

In 1930 two babies are born; one light-skinned and the other dark. They are passed off as twins. On the day they are born Genus Jackson is lynched and dragged behind a truck along the Twelve–Mile straight, the road leading to the nearby town.

The family is soon being torn apart by the dark secrets they all share.

Set in the dark days of the depression, this epic story tells of great suffering in the small world of Georgia as the
...more
Julia
Jan 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Twelve Mile Straight by Eleanor Henderson is an epic historical novel set in Georgia in 1930. It was reminiscent of John Steinbeck's Of Mice And Men in both the style and atmosphere.
Back in the 1930's the deep South continued to be a divide between the white and black Americans. There were lies and lynchings, rapes and violence, and people turning a blind eye everywhere. It is not a comfortable read. It is deeply disturbing.
In contrast there was love and loyalty between two girls... one
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Janet
Dec 07, 2017 rated it it was ok
This plot should have been intense and gripping: It tell a story (back and forth in time, but mostly early 1930's) of a black man, Genus Jackson who was lynched in Georgia because he was believed to have fathered a child with a white woman. It mostly follows 2 women; Elma, who the town believes gave birth to a white and black child by 2 different fathers, and Nan, a young black women, Elma's maid, who is mute (Nan's mother cut out her tongue to "save her" from the cancer that killed Nan's mother ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Add narrator to audio edition 2 22 Oct 18, 2017 05:25PM  

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“She cried. Her shoulders shook. It was terrible, the sound she made, the sound of her own strangled voice, and her hate stood up and turned on Genus. Juke had no intention of allowing them to marry - what a fool she'd been to believe his word! - but what kind of man would want to marry her? A girl with no tongue, a girl who made a sound like that? Was he as bad as Juke, loving only her silence after all, her weakness? What good would it do to tell him? What could he do to protect her? Quick as a whip, she slipped her arm from his hands and ran back to the big house.” 1 likes
“That was how Juke felt on the porch of String Wilson’s new house. He wanted, and he didn’t want to want.” 0 likes
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