Soon before the Civil War, a slavemaster named Jonah takes his family and five of his slaves to a remote and beautiful island off the coast of Florida. As soon as they arrive, one of the slaves named Shaka lures the other slaves into his shamanic and animistic beliefs. When a pair of black, inverted wings appear on the island from nowhere, the slaves revolt against Jonah. As Jonah struggles to repress the slaves and his wife strives to convert them back to Christianity, Shaka reveals that they are preparing for an extraordinary exodus back to Africa. While the island hovers on the verge of violence and even madness, the whites and black are forced to confront the dark, secretive but sometimes loving relationships that exist between them through spending their lifetimes together on a wild and backwoods plantation. As the day of liberation approaches, the story increasingly turns and twists in ways the reader cannot imagine, as the characters see their ideas about their lives shattered – and eventually reconstructed anew. While the plot is driven onward by suspense, this novel delves into the ideas behind our American culture – and even deeper into the most repressed reaches of our mind. In the end an allegory emerges from the pages, at once painful and unflinching but healing, about the history of America.
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