In it’s back-cover description, The Cutting Season by Attica Locke is described as “a thoughtful meditation on how America reckons it’s past with it’s future.”
Sure, I definitely got that from this book. The Cutting Season tells the story of a Louisiana plantation manager who finds herself stuck in the middle of a murder investigation that, she comes to discover, has roots in another crime from the 1870s. More on that later, because for me, something in this story was more important than the murder investigation.
The sense of family.
As parents, we’re all concerned with family in one way or another. That’s also true of the main character in The Cutting Season by Attica Locke, so it was easy for me to relate to parts of this story.
Caren is thrown into the middle of a murder investigation when a body is discovered on the plantation she manages, but things get a lot more real when she discovers blood on one of her nine-year-old daughter’s shirts. Caren knows, of course, that her daughter wasn’t involved in the murder, but the mother-daughter pair live on the plantation property, and Caren can’t help but wonder at how her daughter could possibly have gotten the victim’s blood on her shirt.
In an effort to protect her daughter, Caren begins an investigation of her own which sets off a chain of events that, Caren eventually learns, date all the way back to the murder of her great-great-great-great (I forget how many greats) Grandfather. Caren’s grandfather, Jason, worked on the plantation as a slave and then as a free man, but when he disappeared only the newly-appointed African American sheriff was interested in what may have happened to the murdered former slave.
Caren originally begins searching for the truth in order to protect her daughter, but when a plantation employee is arrested for the crime, Caren’s own sleuthing goes into hyper-drive because, in The Cutting Season, family isn’t just about blood ties. For Caren, the arrested boy is family, too.
Soon, the father of Caren’s daughter is involved, and not only is Caren mourning for her family at the plantation and her ancestral family, but she’s also mourning the family she never had with her ex-boyfriend, Eric.
Anyhow, as Caren digs deeper into the murder, she finds out things about her ancestors and her family members that she never knew before. The process allows her to make peace with her now deceased mother, and it helps her to realize that some people she considered to be family don’t really have her back the way she’d hoped they would.
The back cover also describes the book as “taut, hauntingly resonant and beautifully written,” which it absolutely is. Everyone can related to parts of this book in one way or another. Everyone has trusted someone and thought of that person as family, only to find out that things aren’t as they seem. It’s common to fall out with a person only to reconnect later in life. And every mother I know would stop at nothing to protect her babies and her family, just like Caren did in this story.
Attica Locke may have set out to tie the future together with the past, but for me, she simply showed how important family bonds — even those that transcend time — really are.
Because The Cutting Season took place on a plantation, there are certainly some racial implications in the story. Check out the video below to see author Attica Locke talk about her feelings about plantations and her inspiration for the story — followed by a reading by Locke, of course!