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3.89  ·  Rating details ·  334 ratings  ·  57 reviews
“Some things just don’t keep well inside this house …”

The summer of 1966 burned hot across America but nowhere hotter than the cotton fields of Mississippi. Finding herself in a precarious position as a black woman living alone, Bernice accepts her brother Floyd’s invitation to join him as a servant for a white family and she enters the web of hostility and deception that
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published May 19th 2020 by Blackstone Publishing
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Average rating 3.89  · 
Rating details
 ·  334 ratings  ·  57 reviews

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Diane S ☔
3.5 Pain, revenge and rascism. It is the 1960s, and Bernice, a black woman whose husband has disappears, joins her brother to serve on the Kerns cotton plantation. In Mississippi, though slavery is no more, blacks are anything but equal. All is not well on the plantation, strained relationships, secrets and insidious plots of revenge plague the characters. Though they are considered servants, are they in charge of their own destiny or is servitude just another name for slavery?

A debut novel, wel
Andres Ocon
Jan 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The language in this book is very descriptive, offering a tender look at individuals working in a house on a plantation in Mississippi. Edward A. Farmer describes things poetically, paying close attention to the environment as much as he does the characters. He makes objects like the house and cicada trees feel like characters in the story. Each person in the book goes through major transformations over the course of the story, with some showing growth and others deteriorating just like the hous ...more
Feb 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Edward Farmer's engrossing debut, Pale, begins in 1966 in the burning heat of Mississippi, when Bernice, whose husband left with all their savings and didn't return, accepts her brothers invitation to join him in working on a cotton plantation. She is slowly immersed into a household full of secrets, deception, revenge, and downright cruelty, which revolves around two young brothers who come to work on the plantation. One becomes a pawn to enact revenge, and the other is mistreated, lied to, and ...more
Jun 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Farmer is such a very talented storyteller & writer, it is hard to believe that this is a debut novel. "Pale" slowly builds tension & suspense with its complex, riveting & emotionally engaging prose. Family secrets, betrayal, lies & a woman hellbent on vindication & revenge, no matter who gets hurt on the way.
"Pale" is powerful, gritty, atmospheric & utterly gripping from start to finish. Farmer is definitely a writer that we can expect more great stories from in the future. Kudos on this debut
James Wade
May 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Stunning debut from a sure-to-be prolific, young voice!
Trinidad Cisneros
Dec 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Contrary to the meaning of this book's title, "Pale" is anything but lacking in color, or depth. Instead, it's a rich exploration of unresolved trauma, family, brokenness, and somewhere deep within that intersectionality, hope. This story takes place in the 1960s, in the rural back country of Mississippi, where the young jilted Bernice takes employment at a plantation her brother works. It is in this beautifully described space that Bernice bears witness to the aftermass of unfettered grief, uns ...more
Joy Perry
May 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: edelweiss
Written very poetically, this debut by Edward A. Farmer, is a winner!

The story begins in 1966 when Bernie moves to a Mississippi plantation where her brother Floyd works: The Kern plantation. Another woman, Silva works there as well and brings her two young sons Fletcher and Jesse to work there one summer. Thereby really begins the story of the Kerns and the workers and families.

This book is very well written and i literally read it through from beginning to end with little room to eat and sle
Bill Silva
I'm sorry to say that this debut novel was just not very engaging or compelling enough to recommend with more than two stars ("it was ok"). The plot, such as it is, moves very slowly, and the characters are mostly one-dimensional, with their actions and motivations obscure and unexplained. The writing alternately aims at lyricism or moody drama--but here again the author's reach unfortunately exceeds his grasp. Given my expectations based on the published description, this was a disappointment. ...more
Nov 07, 2019 rated it liked it
This book started off so beautifully, that I thought I'd be giving it five stars. Set in post-Jim Crow Mississippi, yet conditions were clearly dependent on one's race, unfortunately, I felt that the story dragged and went no where. However, it's clear this writer is talented and I look forward to reading his next book. ...more
Liza Taylor
Jun 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Farmer's language is so lyrical and evocative, I found myself floating along through Bernice's story as if in a dream. I was amazed to hear Farmer say that he wrote the book in 30 days. Bernice is a true observer of the lives around her, and though we don't get to know a lot about her, ultimately, her view of the Kern family dynamics is singularly clear and deeply wise. A beautiful debut novel. ...more
Nov 09, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
If only this novel was, oh I don’t know, a third as exciting as its official description made it sound. But no, it plodded on with all the oppressive tedium of Mississippian summer and moved with all the speed of a southern drawl.
The thing is the description isn’t by any means inaccurate, it’s just that it’s the best possible reader’s digest version of events. In real time as the story unfolds on the pages, it’s a slog and a drag of a moral morass. With a strong wtf undercurrent.
Set over a cen
Glenda Nelms
Jun 23, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Descriptive, Emotionally gripping debut novel.
O Prism
Nov 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is an engaging debut novel set in the summer of 1966 Mississippi. Bernice takes a job with a white family on the advice of her brother. The house is not a happy one, and the “Missus” is a petty, vindictive woman out for revenge on most anyone who looks at her wrong. Secrets, lies and betrayal run rampant within and outside of the house, between men and women who should by all accounts get along with one another. There was a constant tension running through the characters while reading, and ...more
Dec 04, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2020
This really was not what I expected. The synopsis (Bernice, a black woman whose brother doesn't like that she lives alone, takes a job as a servant to a white family who owns a cotton plantation in 1966 where she "she enters the web of hostility and deception that is the Kern plantation household.") is fairly straight forward. And yet it really did not do what I thought it might. It didn't move as fast, or was as tense, as I thought it would be. I feel like the character work and the general wri ...more
Apr 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle-ebook
I'm feeling a bit conflicted about this book. It is the story of Bernice whose husband leaves with all of her savings and does not return or call for her to come meet him. Bernice decides to move to Mississippi to live with her brother to work on a cotton plantation. The missus in the story is deception and vindictive. A story of family, lies and secrets hid. Love the authors description, I could picture the story in my head so vividly. My only conflict, that it was a story that left me feeling ...more
Denice Langley
Feb 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An engrossing story that builds slowly as it pulls you into the middle of a class/ race battle lived in a short period of time in Mississippi. Edward Farmer writes as if he lived the story. He introduces us to a cross section of southern characters just trying to survive in a climate when times were changing very slowly and not always in a good way. As the wife of the owner of a cotton plantation sets in motion a series of events meant to ease her pride and soothe her wounds, the tension builds ...more
Annie Bomke
Dec 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book!  It had me riveted from the first page.  The writing is gorgeous, and the sense of place is so immersive.  You really feel the oppressiveness of the heat, the tedium of farm life, the isolation of the plantation and how trapped the characters are.  It's a deeply psychological book about race, power and what it means to belong.  Edward Farmer is a fierce new talent. ...more
Jul 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
“We’re slaves to our circumstances.”

“Do birds remain in winter when that cold threatens their livelihood? Do migrants stay in one place where there is no food left to keep them?”

“No one makes us into anything.” I said sternly. “What we do is our own choice, but it’s a choice that’s laden with scars, Fletcher.” It’s crippled by the things we’ve had done to us and the things they continue to do.”

Pale is the story of two families, one white and one black living on a Southern plantation in the 1960s
Nov 15, 2020 rated it liked it
⭐⭐⭐ A messy twist of lies, vindication and deceit. A slave owning family slowly loses their power and finds themselves at the mercy of their slaves when their sins finally catch up with them over the course of many years. Eventually, these sins also catch up with the slaves but they ultimately overcome the effects of the poisonous influence of the master family. The cadence of this book was strange, switching from one scenario to another quickly but the writing was beautiful. I had compassion fo ...more
Arlena Dean
Title: Pale
Author: Edward Farmer
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Reviewed By: Arlena Dean
Rating: Four

"Pale" by Edward Farmer

My Speculation:

I found 'Pale' quite an engaging read where we find Bernice going to live with her brother, Floyd, in the 1960s in Mississippi, who worked on a cotton plantation. What a story of how this Missus was one very deceptive, petty, and vindictive person that caused all kinds of trouble for everyone, which included her husband. Yes, what she was trying to do w
Erricka Hager
Jul 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was an okay read. There were a lot of character voices and stories to follow. The beginning of the book was intriguing and then at some point it started to drag.

The story follows our main character Bernice to a cotton plantation where her brother also works because her husband up and left her.

Pale continues to discuss how the various lies, deception and master vs slave narratives impacts the lives of the people who work/reside at the Kern Plantation in 1960s Mississippi.
Nov 10, 2020 rated it it was ok
A book I probably should not have forced myself to finish because it didn’t get any more interesting. The synopsis reeled me in and I had seen rave reviews from this debut book, however the storyline dragged on and never quite lived up to my expectations. This was the most underwhelming book of 2020 for me. While some of the themes presented in this novel were interesting: generational trauma, lies, deception, and grief..the storytelling left much to be desired.
Oct 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A glimpse into life in the Mississippi delta during the 60s and the complex relationships between the white cotton plantation owners and the African Americans who work in their home and on their land. Much of the story takes place in the small house and the reader "lives" in that place along with all of the sounds, images, and emotions. Be prepared to underline (or kindle highlight) many sentences or passages that capture truth and feelings in carefully chosen words. ...more
Jul 25, 2020 rated it liked it
Debut author Edward A. Farmer describes a leading character as “a pale color shaded by all that was around,” but I think this applies to every one of the characters in this story. I found this book to be a fresh study of the adages “you reap what you sow” and “slaves to our own circumstances,” both of which are uttered by his characters. We witness how choice and circumstance affect the vividly-wrought cast living and working on the Kern cotton plantation in 1960s Mississippi, where “things that ...more
Heather L
May 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a quiet book, not a lot of action happens. There is a log of dialogue between the characters, mostly about the ‘Missus’ of the house who routinely suffers from various maladies, she will have seizures on occasion and will become bedridden for days at a time, she’s looked after by Bernice and Silva, another black servant. The story is told from the POV of Bernice who accepts her brother’s invitation to join him at a plantation owned by a white man in rural Mississippi in the latter part o ...more
Kathleen Gray
May 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Mississippi in the summer of 1966 is like a fly in amber. Things have legally changed since the Civil War but economic circumstance and privilege continue to hold African Americans in positions of servility. Told from the perspective of Bernice, a woman has had a tough go of it, this is the story of a cotton plantation and the people who live there. The Missus is an angry woman who has just discovered how she was betrayed. Her fury will reverberates though the servants, especially to Jesse and F ...more
Apr 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was a beautiful book that examines how people can weave a web of control, angst, pain, and betrayal around each other, and the many types of insidious control exerted over black people in the 60s South even though they were technically not slaves anymore. This book is written incredibly well and though some may find the plot a bit slow-paced, I think it did a great job of building so much tension into each scene that you could crack the air like ice. While it's certainly not a happy story, ...more
Claire James Carroll
This novel is expansive. The word may be overused, but this book earns it. There's a good flow between descriptions of the land, squabbles, lies, loves, burdens, and racism at the Kern plantation in mid-20th-c Mississippi. The narrator’s descriptive gaze gives each detail and observation a decades-long scope. While the Missus is chaotic in a way that isn't ever quite made clear, the arc of her decline is mapped with great patience. #NetGalley ...more
Nov 30, 2020 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed the first half but by the time I was midway through I was no longer invested. This could partially be the choppy way I read it, but the character development eventually stalled out and so I lost interest. Farmer is a great writer and the setting of a totally non-progressive plantation in the 60s was heartbreaking and disturbing, but ultimately there wasn't enough material there for me to really dig into and care about. ...more
Nov 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
A web of secrets and lies bedevil a cotton plantation in South Carolina in the 1960s. Complex relationships among the owner and his wife and their servants create constant underlying tension. Narrated by Bernice, one of the servants, this debut novel does a decent job of tying this all together. The character of the “Missus” was somewhat overdrawn. On the other hand, Fletcher, a tormented biracial character, was very well drawn. 3.5 rounded up to 4. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an A ...more
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