Yellow Crocus: A Novel
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Moments after her birth to the mistress of a sprawling Virginia plantation, Lisbeth Wainwright is entrusted to Mattie, an enslaved wet nurse. From then on, Mattie serves as Lisbeth's stand-in mother, nursing her, singing her to sleep, and soothing her in the night. And yet mothering Lisbeth tears Mattie away from her own baby, Samuel, who lives in the slave quarters. Growing up under Mattie's tender care, Lisbeth adopts her traditions of prayer, singing, eating black-eyed peas, and hunting for yellow crocuses in the spring. As the years pass, Lisbeth is drawn back into the white world, earning a growing awareness of the inequality of her and Mattie's stations. She struggles to reconcile her love for Mattie with her parents' expectations for her future, intent on keeping the best of both worlds-until a terrible betrayal forces her to choose once and for all. Yellow Crocus is a compelling novel of love, loss, and redemption set during one of the most sinister chapters of American history.
her fear, Lisbeth haughtily declared, “You are disturbing my reading. You know you are supposed to let me study.” “Study elsewhere,” Jack taunted without taking his eyes off Samuel. “I do not wish to,” Lisbeth stated. “You know this is my preferred place to learn. What are you doing?” “Teaching this nigger to show us respect.” “Father does not approve when you interfere with the niggers,” she replied. “He does not care about this one,” Jack replied with a sneer. “He is to be
her son. Before the sun finished making its way over the horizon, a wagon pulled up. Samuel, followed by Poppy, walked out of their cabin and climbed into the wagon. Though he could not see her, he looked up at his mother, knowing she was there. Mattie muffled a cry into one hand and waved through the cold, damp glass with the other. Dropping her hands to her sides, she stood stiff as a board as she watched her son ride away, growing ever smaller in the distance until she could not make him
felt deeply ashamed. “Oh, Mattie, I am sorry,” the young woman said. “Cook will give me sugar and salt if I tell her I have the runs. I shall bring some of each to you.” True to her word, Lisbeth lied to the cook and then sneaked down the rear stairs to deliver the elixir that Jordan desperately needed. The night after the dance, Lisbeth went to tell Mattie all about it. When she got to her cabin she first asked, “How is Jordan, Mattie?” “As you can see for yourself . . . she
own ways. At Fair Oaks the overseer and your father take care of the field hands, while Mrs. Gray and I see to the house hands. You are quite aware of our arrangement by now. We do not need a little girl to tell us how to run the plantation.” Feeling thoroughly chastised and embarrassed, Lisbeth changed the subject. “Mother, I saw the first crocus of spring yesterday. Can we have a picnic to celebrate?” “What a lovely idea. Who do you wish to invite?” “I thought it would be for us,
Berkeley, with her wife, Rinda; their dogs, Bella and Lucie; and on occasion their young-adult daughters, Kalin and Maya Ibrahim-Bartley. Yellow Crocus is her first novel.