THE DARKEST CHILD is set in rural Georgia in the 1950s. The heroine is Tangy Mae, one of many illegitimate children belonging to Rozelle Quinn, a light-skinned Black woman who moonlights as a prostitute and sends out her children to earn her money and work for her affection. She is incredibly abusive and some of the things she does involve stabbing one of her children through the hand with an ice pick and branding another, the heroine, on the ankle with a red-hot iron.
Set against the backdrop of all this abuse is the burgeoning civil rights era. Some of the Black people in town are getting sick of being treated terribly and sometimes not even getting paid for their hard work. Segregation is in full-force but the people who get to decide to cross those lines-- and when-- are the white people, and that's made painfully clear when Tangy is forced to work for her mom in a brothel and is exploited by white men with twisted agendas.
I think this is a compelling story. I had a hard time putting it down. But it's not a story I enjoyed. The comparison to WHITE OLEANDER is pretty on point, but it goes to places that WHITE OLEANDER feared to tread. I don't have a lot of triggers, but descriptive gore and sexual exploitation of children are two subjects I have a hard time reading about, and both of those things were in abundance here.
3 out of 5 stars