The Sleeping Night

The Sleeping Night - Barbara Samuel Barbara Samuel has crafted an emotionally wrenching and soul-stirring story with The Sleeping Night. The story begins in 2005 with a prelude to a war memorial dedication and an author reading in a rural Texas town. The reader is then whisked away to the same town in the 1930s and 1940s. Angel Corey is the white daughter of a store owner, a store owner that sells to the "coloreds" and lives on the wrong side of the color-line. Her mother died shortly after her birth so she is being raised by her father with somewhat unconventional ideas, such as the equality between whites and blacks. Isaiah High is just a few years older than Angel, but he is a black male being raised in an era of Jim Crow laws. As children, Angel and Isaiah play together, read together and even nap on laps together. As teenagers they are prohibited from playing together. As young adults they help one another remain sane during World War II through letters; Angel is now a war widow and Isaiah is a soldier in Europe. They both know that they cannot return to the level of friendship they had as children, but they also know that it has moved far beyond simple friendship into love.

Angel was allowed to be unconventional as long as her father was alive, but he died shortly before Isaiah returns to the States. Her sole remaining relative, a paternal aunt, expects her to fall in line with societal rules . . . sell the store, move into town and become more respectable. When Angel is pushed out of her church by the bigoted actions of the church governing body, she all but severs ties with the town of Gideon. Her only friends remain the High family, Mrs. Pierson (a family friend), and Mrs. Pierson's niece, Gudrun Stroo. Mrs. Pierson is a refugee from Poland and World War I and her niece is a refugee from Denmark and World War II. Both understand the notion of hatred without cause and try to provide a safe haven for both Angel and Isaiah as it becomes clear that they love one another.

The Sleeping Night isn't an easy read simply because of the topics presented: racism, bigotry, and hatred. However, it also presents some wonderful issues such as love, family and survival. The citizens of Gideon Texas were probably no different from those in other towns in the 1930s and 1940s. People were expected to adhere to certain societal and class rules with the pervasive notion that whites and blacks do not mix. The idea of an interracial couple, especially a black male and white female, was more than taboo; it was grounds for justifiable homicide against the male. Reading about the growing attraction between Angel and Isaiah during this time period provided a lot of tension, racial and otherwise. Ms. Samuel presents star-crossed lovers that hope for a life together that simply cannot be at that time and in that place. I was captured by the stories of Angel, Isaiah and the gentle (and not-so-gentle) townsfolk of Gideon Texas from the first chapter to the last, so much that I read it in one sitting. The Sleeping Night may make you cry or get angry at the injustices in the world but it will also make you smile, laugh and hope for a better tomorrow.