Poplar by Damian Crosse
“There’s some kind of evil that sticks around longer than others…”
Thomas Mitchell’s mother abandoned him when he was five. Since then, Thomas hasn’t spoken to her, nor stepped foot in any Southern American state. One morning, he discovers a letter from her in his mailbox—a letter asking to see him. “I’m sick, Thomas…” she writes. “I want to see you…” Thomas fears she’s more than sick; he fears she’s dying. In a desperate effort to speak to his mother face-to-face before it’s too late, and to perhaps find the closure he’s been searching for his entire life, he packs up and departs for Mississippi, leaving behind his girlfriend, Chelsea, and their three-year-old daughter, Sarah. Just before he leaves, however, Thomas’s father finally reveals the true reason for his mother’s departure all those years ago…
…as well as a dark secret that has plagued their family’s history for decades.
On his way through Georgia, Thomas becomes stranded on the outskirts of Judson, an unfriendly backwater town mired in Jim Crow era beliefs and attitudes. With no way to fix his car, Thomas almost loses hope, until a kindly stranger by the name of Tanner Mason happens upon him. Tanner, an old, white farmer who appears to live by himself in the middle of the woods, seems helpful and righteous at first, but Thomas soon learns that there is much more to the man than meets the eye. Tanner knows things about Thomas, things no stranger should, and is aware of the secret that drove Thomas’s family apart.