It is 1954, and a young man named Atticus is headed home to Chicago. In Chicago he will find his beloved uncle and aunt, who together run The Safe Negro Travel Guide and Travel Agency. His uncle, like himself, is a lover of pulp novels and dime store comics. His aunt travels the country alone, adding stops to the travel guide while looking at the stars. He’ll find his little cousin, a comic-book hound and talented artist. He’ll find his old friend Titia, who has inherited her mother’s gift of talking to the dead.
In the face of a ghost hell-bent on driving her from her house, Titia fights back with one of my favorite arguments:
“What you going to do?” she cried. “You break my neck, and the what? You think I won’t come back and haunt you? Go ahead! Make me a ghost! See what that gets you.”
I love a good “I’ll haunt YOUR ghost” threat, and I really love Titia. She’s driven, funny, clever, and tough-as-nails.
We’re only touching the tip of the weird iceberg here, folks.
What he won’t find is his father. He has returned home- made the harrowing journey from Jacksonville to Chicago through the heart of the Jim Crow south, because his often distant and frequently temperamental father has written him a creepy letter about finding his “birthright that was stolen from him” and needing to go out to “Lovecraft Country”. Atticus has already narrowly escaped racist townies along the way, and barely escaped from white cops desperate to lynch him, but now he is going to go toe-to-toe with monsters of a cosmic provenance. His father has been a difficult man; aggressive towards Atticus- frequently over his choice of reading material. His father was delighted to show Atticus Lovecraft’s “humorous” poem about (terrible racist term that I will not use but you know exactly what it is).
He always insisted he just wanted Atticus to think about what he read, rather than imbibing it mindlessly, and Atticus, if he were being honest, had to admit that was a reasonable goal.
Really, there are things out in the night that are much worse than monsters. Our group of heroes have survived far worse than the imaginings of Lovecraft; the true horror comes from being in the targets of men like Lovecraft; hell-bent racist fools. In 1954 America (and in our current terrible timeline) there are people who see black bodies as props; things to use, things to terrorize, and things to leave swinging from trees. Atticus and his family face those evils on an every day basis; we are only peeking in on a tiny slice of their lives that happens to contain monsters, ghosts, and sorcery.
Lovecraft Country has been adapted into a TV series by HBO, and I skipped this book to the top of my TBR pile, being sure to finish it before the show airs. I skipped teasers and trailers until I had closed the book as well, and now that I have finished I am excited! Adaptations frequently fly off the rails, but this piece is being helmed by Misha Green of Underground and Jordan Peele, a perfect match for this project. Also, the patriarchs of the family are being played by Michael K. Williams and Courtney B. Vance. I am curious to see where the journey to Lovecraft Country will take us all.