Author: Anjuelle Floyd

Publisher: NOJ Publications

ISBN: 978-1-938070-01-3

Anjuelle Floyd's poignant and sophisticated novel, When the Drum Major Died is set in Poinsettia, N.C. during the turbulent times of the Civil Rights Movement in the mid 1960s and reflects the difficult realities of people coping with hyphenated identities, deep-seated secrets, deceit, racism, women's rights, lost love, and different facets of African American life including their issue of skin color or as sometimes referred to as the color complex.

Florina Gavin Austin is a young African-American who has just married a medical doctor, Redmond Austin and has quite a secret under her bonnet. Consider this, Florina never divulged to her husband a previous marriage to Army Lt. Ennis McCreary, whom she deeply loved and who unfortunately had been killed in Vietnam. In fact, she never told her parents of her marriage for fear they would reject Ennis as he was half Cherokee and half white. It should be mentioned that at the time in most of the USA interracial marriage was considered a felony. The only person to know of Florina's seven month marriage to Ennis was his mother who had informed Florina of her son's tragic death.

Two days after her marriage to Redmond, Florina approaches the house where the couple will live and observes a unfamiliar woman smoking a cigarette sitting on the steps leading up to the verandah. The woman was extremely fair skinned like Florina and on a clear day could have easily passed off as being white. The mystery woman, who initially fails to introduce herself, turns out to be quite abrasive and seems to know a great deal about Redmond and his family. In time, Florina discovers that the woman is Agnes Elder and is married to Redmond's childhood friend, Macon who is likewise a medical doctor.

Perplexing to Florina is that Agnes tells her that she “ knew” Redmond before Macon entered the picture. And there is more, lots more in this romance saga, when Florina, after attending the benediction at a Sunday service, spots Agnes cupping her glove palm to Redmond's cheek who stares at her for a long moment. What is this all about? Is Redmond likewise bringing in some emotional or spiritual baggage and is this somehow connected to his relationship with Macon and Agnes? Is he trying to escape something? And who really is Agnes?

The story moves back and forth in time as Floyd masterly achieves compelling narrative tension through a series of some unforeseen twists and turns, wherein the bubbling tide of the past rises up involving various characters in the narrative. What keeps propelling the tale forward is the interplay of fact and fiction, what really happened and how it was perceived. In addition, Floyd brilliantly succeeds in imparting a unique voice to each of her characters guiding her readers in understanding the dilemmas and broken lives of people who are often the architects of their own suffering. There is no doubt that with this memorable novel Floyd will win new admirers and I look forward to hearing more from her.


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