The world doesn’t contain one set of systems and beliefs that helps a person process their station in life or when death, loss, or trouble comes knocking at their door. Some turn to gods and holy texts. Others turn to hardcore facts and science. In between the worlds of science and religion is another realm where spirituality and cultural traditions guide the path. In her debut novel, Indigo Field, Marjorie Hudson effortlessly covers the scope of these elements, and so much more.
As the story unfolds, we progress through different timelines, different spaces, and land in Indigo Field, where there are no holds barred and no rules set for life’s hard times. All the while, the reader can feel assured on this excursion as we’re folded into Hudson’s mesmerizing prose and firm grasp on the narrative. She’s able to blend timelines, characters and cultures with not only sensitivity but command of the situation. It’s evident she’s done her research and the product is this beautiful novel.
One of the main stories we follow is that of Miss Reba – an 80-year-old Black woman whose bloodline traces back to the Tuscarora tribe of North Carolina. Miss Reba is part witch, part Christian, and fully human. She has lived her entire life on the edge of Indigo Field, and her lineage runs deep and wide. Stories are a crucial part of her journey, both past and present. Her stories are not shared in a conventional sense, but rather through her interactions with her deceased great niece, Danielle. In Miss Reba’s world, life doesn’t necessarily end at death, and we find out how Miss Reba’s past continues to inform her opinions of the world as she sits with Danielle’s ashes in her lap and tells her about their ancestry.
Other stories from a broad range of characters forge the narrative for Indigo Field. Across the grasses and beyond the forest lives one of Miss Reba’s neighbors, Jolene Blake, a young widow trying her best to keep her farm afloat and give her and her son, Bobo, a safe and happy life. She, too, is a believer in stories, though for Jolene, the stories are shared through internal memories versus the verbal stories Miss Reba shares. Rand, a retired Army colonel, is obsessed with his own story, and what he believes to be his imminent death. The plot twist for him: his wife is the one who passes away unexpectedly. He is left to make sense of a world where he is healed and alive and his sociable, loving wife goes to play tennis and never comes home. The lives of these three main characters, as well as the young men in their families, weave throughout Indigo Field. Hudson seamlessly entwines these fallible characters alongside elements of the past, historical events and cultural tumult.
While the stories of these three main characters act as the skeleton that holds the story together, the interior is composed of land, animals and nature itself. This should come as no surprise for a story filled with spirituality and other-worldly elements, but Hudson writes the natural world with such detail that the character of the land is ubiquitous.
The narrator states, “It is the younger trees, the ones with fat crowns and thick branches, that catch the wind, billowing like sails, straining to turn the mast, twisting tons of bark and cambium and dense heartwood… One tree gives way. As it falls full weight, its crown tangles with sister trees and they tumble alongside…. The wind shouts triumph.” Not only do the land and wildlife have a presence, there is magic and mysticism to be found in all the wonder of Indigo Field. Miss Reba holds a gift that was passed down to her through her Tuscarora ancestors. As such, all the loved ones that Miss Reba has lost throughout the years never fully leave, making their presence known through nature: “Spirits have been restless all morning. Old Lucy sent a fly to buzz around TJ’s head at breakfast. Sheba brought yellow butterflies to circle her angel statue in the yard. Seems like the story last night cracked open the earth and let them out.”
As we follow these characters, dive in and out of the past and present, our dedication unquestionably pays off when everything collides in a tumultuous storm. “Spirits rise in a storm. The bigger the storm, the more they rise,” Miss Reba said. There is destruction along the way, to be sure, but also an opportunity for redemption. To finish with a quote from the book regarding Rand, specifically, but one that applies to all humans: “More tropical birds, taking over the world. A storm. A runaway. A new ecosystem. If birds can adapt like that, so can he.” So can we.
By Marjorie Hudson
Regal House Publishing
March 14, 2023
This cover is stunning!