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General Fiction


By: Jamie Lisa Forbes
Publisher: Pronghorn Press
Publication Date: May 22, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-941052-37-2
Reviewed by: Nellie Calanni
Review Date: March 14, 2024

When college-bound Rowen Hart is left reeling from his father’s suicide, he finds himself having to become the man of the house and navigate the waters of his rural, very racially divided town in 1950s North Carolina. What will his future hold now that the aftermath of his father’s death has left him and his mother in undesirable circumstances? Jamie Lisa Forbes takes readers along Rowen’s journey through manhood and adulthood and shines a light on the pivotal people he meets along the way in her newest novel Eden.

Eden begins with Rowen months after his father’s suicide, in his new home on the outskirts of town with his bedridden-from-grief Mama and devoted housekeeper Adeline. He is discouraged by his inability to hold a steady job and perform tasks that every man in White Rock, North Carolina is expected to have perfected by his age. Daddy never taught him how to fix anything or lift a finger for that matter, and so the broken gate out front remains broken and the land at Sawyer’s remains untended to. One morning, he decides to be late for work on Sawyer’s property, but not for any common excuse. There’s a murder trial taking place – Franklin White has been accused of killing his drunkard brother-in-law, Birch Whitney – and Rowen is curious and thankful for another scandal to be overshadowing his father’s untimely death.

Rowen’s interest in the case is soon piqued for another reason. Eden, the murder victim’s 10-year-old firecracker of a daughter, is called to the stand. She witnessed her uncle kill her father right before her eyes and is happy to tell anyone who will listen. Rest assured the whole town is listening, but believing her account is another story. Eden’s mother, if you can call her that, has decided she’s had enough of her daughter’s testimony and shameful presence, so what is a 10-year-old accused of lying to do? Run away to the outskirts of town and have someone else take her in.

When Eden shows up at Rowen’s home with only the clothes on her back, Adeline and Mama are pleased to take in the child. Rowen, however, is not. Eden is brash and brazen for her age, curious and ill-mannered too. Between his boss Sawyer, his co-worker Sammy, his greedy Uncle Hugh, Eden, Adeline, Mama, and his soon-to-be-wife Jewell constantly breathing down his neck, Rowen struggles to keep up with demands and expectations. An unforeseen bright spot throughout Rowen’s toils, however, is his budding friendship with Eden. As he spends more time with her, Rowen begins to see the world through her eyes, and regrets not being more of an open-minded young man. Then one day, everything changes – again. Eden’s mother has come to take her back. Rowen doesn’t know it yet, but he won’t see Eden again until she’s grown with adult struggles of her own. What will become of their reconciliation? It’s an emotional ride for readers as well as the characters in Eden.

Jamie Lisa Forbes details 1950s small-town North Carolina in a way that makes readers feel like they’re sweltering in the heat of the courtroom and shivering amidst the coldness of racial and class prejudices. To be able to communicate to the audience different relationship dynamics, whether it’s intimate relationships, friendships that break racial barriers, family ties, or the relationship an individual has with themselves, in such a heartbreaking and realistic way shows her dedication to understanding diverse backgrounds and what it meant to have grown up in the south during such emotionally charged times. This book is the perfect reminder for readers that life would be much less colorful if not for the people we meet along the way.

Quill says: Unexpected relationships can be the most rewarding, and award-winning author Jamie Lisa Forbes details them beautifully throughout Eden.

For more information about Eden, please visit the author's website at:

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