When Wanda M. Morris released her debut novel–a contemporary thriller set in and around a Georgia law office called All Her Little Secrets—she quickly became a critical darling, a fan favorite, and a multi-award-nominated and multi-award-winning juggernaut. Anticipation was high for this talented author’s next novel. Understandably, many readers expected another contemporary thriller with legal themes, but Wanda M. Morris refused to take the expected or easy route and this week is releasing Anywhere You Run, a historical novel set in the Jim Crow South featuring two strong and unforgettable female lead characters literally running for their lives. Rest assured, Anywhere You Run is every bit as good as that stunning debut novel, and in many ways Wanda M. Morris has exceeded some very-high expectations.
Set in 1964, Anywhere You Run begins with two sisters—Violet and Marigold Richards—who reside in Jackson, Mississippi. Life there isn’t easy, but it is familiar. But when Violet is brutally assaulted and the man responsible ends up dead, she knows she must flee, leaving both her home, and more importantly, her sister. Leaving in the middle of the night with the man she loves, a white man, the two plan to head North, where the color of Violet’s skin, and their forbidden mixed-race love, will supposedly be less of a detriment. However, when Violet unexpectedly finds herself in Chillicothe, Georgia—familiar to readers as an important location in All Her Little Secrets—she decides to change her name and stay there awhile. Violet meets some local residents who embrace her, along with a few who just see her as another potential maid around town, but the small community begins to feel like a home of sorts.
Meanwhile, back in Mississippi, Violet’s older sister Marigold is hoping to make a difference in the world. With aspirations of going to law school, she currently works for the Mississippi Summer Project – an advocacy group working towards civil rights for all citizens. Marigold has just discovered she is pregnant, and when the hopes that the father will step up to his obligations are dashed, she finds herself floundering. Now with her sister accused of murder—not to mention gone—Marigold decides it is time that she left as well, heading to Washington, DC, where she hopes that Violet will someday join her.
The strength of Anywhere You Run rests squarely on the shoulders of these two sisters. Wanda M. Morris has crafted two distinct and fleshed-out characters with whom readers will immediately bond. Despite the historical time period of the novel, readers will know women like Violet and Marigold in their present day lives. Women to be admired and respected for so many reasons, not the least of which is their overall moral fiber and inner strength. Both sisters serve as narrators for their own portions of the story and readers will commiserate in their ache to be reunited.
Anywhere You Run is also a thriller, so readers need a villain. Well, to be clear, there are many villains in this story—one of them being society itself—but to help with the forward momentum of the novel, Wanda M. Morris creates Mercer Buggs, a man hired to track down Violet and bring her back to Mississippi to face some sort of reckoning, though Mercer is unclear what that really means. He just needs the money to take care of his family and will do whatever it costs to make that happen. Mercer gets point-of-view chapters of his own, and while his struggles are real, readers will continue turning the pages quickly in hopes that Violet is able to evade this danger hot on her heels.
No review of Anywhere You Run would be complete without a mention of the historical accuracy which Wanda M. Morris imbues throughout the novel. This is an author who knows her stuff when it comes to the Jim Crow laws and their effect on community. Wanda M. Morris refuses to sugarcoat reality to ease the delicate sensibilities of some readers and the book is stronger because of it. Each of the locations in the novel is authentically depicted and Morris instinctively knows just when to include some telling period detail(s) that help to keep readers rooted in the past. Now that fans know she can write both contemporary and historical thrillers, the excitement to see what Wanda M. Morris creates next is higher than ever. Somehow, I think she will once again meet and exceed any and all expectations.
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the author. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.