Title: The Last Blue
Author: Isla Morley
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Publish Date: May 5, 2020 (Happy book birthday!)
What's the Story?:
From Goodreads.com: "In 1937, there are
recesses in Appalachia no outsiders have ever explored. Two
government-sponsored documentarians from Cincinnati, Ohio—a writer and
photographer—are dispatched to penetrate this wilderness and record what
they find for President Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration.
photographer Clay Havens, the assignment is his last chance to reboot
his flagging career. So when he and his journalist partner are warned
away from the remote Spooklight Holler outside of town, they set off
eagerly in search of a headline story.
What they see will
haunt Clay into his old age: Jubilee Buford, a woman whose skin is a
shocking and unmistakable shade of blue. From this happenstance meeting
between a woman isolated from society and persecuted her whole life, and
a man accustomed to keeping himself at lens distance from others, comes
a mesmerizing story in which the dark shades of betrayal, prejudice,
fear, and guilt, are refracted along with the incandescent hues of
passion and courage."
My Two Cents:
In "The Last Blue," Jubilee Buford definitely stands out. Her coloring is blue and she comes from a family that has some members who have had this distinctive coloring and have been the subject of a lot of scrutiny and intolerance at the hands of others in their small Kentucky town in the middle of Appalachia. Clay Havens, a photographer, finds himself in the middle of Appalachia to document everyday life for President Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration. What he will find, or rather who, will be anything but everyday. This book tackles a fascinating bit of history with a wonderful romance at the center of it!
Initially this book sort of almost has a magical realism vibe to it. Jubilee truly has a blue hue to her skin. When she goes out, she can't be missed. Her family is often equal parts protective and mystified by her condition. Because of her blue skin, she has bared the brunt of so much hatred and misunderstanding by those who won't even begin to give her a chance. I felt so bad for her throughout the book. It's clear that she is a really kind and decent person but she is often not given the chance to just be a normal person. The hate she faces is so raw and so devastating and so maddening.
Jubilee hates herself for what she looks like and she hates how much attention her looks bring her. When Havens first meets her, he is of course drawn to her because of what she looks like and as a photographer, he can't help but to want to take pictures of her. As he gets to know her, he sees that she is both beautiful inside and out and he falls so hard for her. I really loved the romance between Havens and Jubilee. They both initially come together with some trepidation but that quickly melts away as they get to know each other as people. The detail of how they fall for each is really amazing and I love how the author got us to cheer for this unlikely pairing.
I've said it before and I'll say it again but I love how historical fiction can introduce readers to things that they've never read about before. There really were blue people in Kentucky and they faced a lot of the things that Jubilee faced. This bit of history makes a great basis for a story that was really all-consuming for me. And the writing, oh, man, the writing! There are some amazing scenes throughout the book that really took me from the highest highs to the lowest lows and back again! I loved how much of a ride this book was! A mark of a good book for me is when I can't stop thinking about the story or the characters after I close the pages and these characters and their story are very much stuck to me!