The Reading Lessons by Carole Lanham
Immortal Ink Publishing 2014
The Reading Lessons is a novel about the lifelong relationship between Hadley, a mixed race boy whose mother starting working for the wealthy Southern family, the Brownings. The boy was also given work around the house as he grew up. Mr. Browning’s daughter Lucinda, who is a round the same age as Hadley, broke her leg and was not happy being stuck in the house. Lucinda took an interest in Hadley and began asking for him to be sent to her for reading lessons. Hadley had already been taught to read but went along with the lessons because he was infatuated with Lucinda. What the two read were banned books that they would read out loud to each other.
As they grew older they continued their reading and Hadley grew to love Lucinda. Even after Lucinda married someone else, she had Hadley move into her home to work for her, and they continued their reading. They had a contentious relationship, but could never seem to live without each other. Hadley was an exceptional gardener and he grew some of the most beautiful flowers in the neighborhood. All of the flowers he planted had a specific meaning, mostly relating to Lucinda.
The Reading Lessons began as a short story in Lanham’s collection The Whisper Jar (2012 Morrigan Books), which I recommend you read, as well. The novel is a beautifully written story about two people from very different worlds who fell in love but could never be together because of societal norms. They are forever bonded through their love of books even after they grow up and Hadley realizes how potentially dangerous his situation is. Lucinda is seductive and erotic; a spoiled rich girl who wants what she wants. Hadley is a young man torn between Lucinda and the want of a real life away from the drama he has become used to.
Hadley and Lucinda’s story weaves through the troubled history of the American South, stressing the dangers of their forbidden relationship. The Reading Lessons is passionate and heartbreaking. These are two well-rounded characters that will take you through a range of emotions, making them quite unforgettable. I highly recommend The Reading Lessons.