Friday, January 13, 2017


“That’s the thing [Mama] finds most blameworthy in the world, to not try, even if you know you’ll likely fail.” --Martha McCoy talking about her mother Alafair Tucker.

Strong women.

In Donis Casey’s The Return of the Raven Mocker, the women of Boynton, Oklahoma, work together to fight the 1918 flu epidemic. Many of the men (including both of the town’s doctors) are away fighting the war.

The Raven Mocker is the Cherokee witch who searches out the sick and old and causes them to have painful, tormented deaths. Alafair Tucker learned of the Raven Mocker from her grandmother in Arkansas.

In 1918, it seemed that the Raven Mocker had come to Boynton.

The women worked together to fight the epidemic. They formed a Red Cross chapter to tend the sick. They did as Alafair Tucker did. They tended to family and protected the children.

They used all their folk remedies to try to save their loved ones and the others around them. And they even sometimes listened to the college-professor doctor sent to help them.

The battle between folk medicine and science raged until, finally, at least for Alafair, there came to be a kind of truce between the two.

The women’s courage flowed through generations. Alafair and Shaw Tucker’s twelve-year-old daughter Sophronia ran from the safety of the isolated farm to come to town to be with a school friend whose mother died. 

Alafair was furious though she herself had come into the epidemic-filled town to tend her flu-ravaged daughter and her husband.

Into all of this, there comes a murder. A poisoning.

Alafair’s testimony causes her cousin Scott, the town constable, to arrest the wrong man. The book opens with Alafair telling the prosecutor the mistake she made. Then she explains. We hear the story.

What a strong book. 

I think Donis Casey’s Alafair Tucker novels are underappreciated. They seem to be regional mysteries, stories of one large family in a fairly isolated place, but they are so much more. 

Boynton ‘s men help fight the nation’s wars. Boynton’s men, women and children fight an epidemic which spreads to many places in the nation. Boynton’s citizens are like people everywhere--strong and weak, courageous and corrupted, honest and sometimes murderous.

If you have not done so before, you might want to give Donis Casey’s Alafair Tucker novels a try.


Naomi Johnson said...

I'm so out of touch these days that I had not realized a new Alafair Tucker story had been published! I always enjoy these stories. Alafair is a flawed character but, as you say, strong. I admire her grit. And I agree that these books are under-appreciated. I sometimes wonder if they might find a wider audience if they were marketed to young adults.

Joe Barone said...

Naomi, Great to hear from you. One thing that strikes me about these books is that they might not age as much as some books do. I am now rereading a book from the Myron Boltiar series written in the 90's. In some ways it seems so dated. But Alafair Tucker books are historical fiction. Maybe, taken over time, they will have a longer shelf life. In regard to these being marketed as YA, without a doubt I would recommend them to YA youth.

It is so good to hear from you. Blessings! --Joe.

Joe Barone said...

I note I made a common mistake in my old age. I transposed letters. The character's name is Myron Bolitar. Sorry for the error.