Wherever There is Light
Peter Golden
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Buy *Wherever There is Light* by Peter Goldenonline

Wherever There is Light
Peter Golden
Atria Books
368 pages
November 2015
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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From the 1920s to the 1960s, from Florida to New York and Paris, Goldenís tale of forbidden romance explores the racial bigotry that has ever been part of the American landscape, the prejudices of earlier generations bearing fruit and furthering the division between races. Lovers Julian and Kendall come from very different backgrounds--an unlikely pairing, but all the more potent for its implied breach of social mores. Julian, sent from Germany to America in 1928 at fifteen, leaves behind an unhappy, emotionally dependent mother and an intelligent, indifferent father. The ugliness of the Holocaust is still far from fruition, a silent poison creeping through Germany. In Newark, New Jersey, Julian Rose finds his niche with East Coast bootleggers but begins as well to invest in real estate as a way to build his fortune.

It isnít until 1938, when his refugee parents arrive in Lovewood, Florida, that Julian meets Kendall Wakefield, the daughter of Garland Wakefield. Daughter of the founder of Lovewoodís African-American college, Garland is a determined, principled woman who refuses to sell any of the collegeís land to the mayor, Jarvis Scales. Ezekiel Wakefield, Garlandís father and Kendallís grandfather, was once one of the mayorís slaves, the enmity between the families long and deep. Given the fierce individualism of a man who has made his own way in life, Julian has little concern for the opinions of others, his attraction to Kendall both immediate and mutual. But Mrs. Wakefield has other plans for her talented daughter, plans that donít include the scandal or problems of a mixed-race romance.

Goldenís tale is a melding of both his strong-willed protagonists, the wealthy Julian Rose and the driven artist Kendall, whose career as a painter evolves over time to that of photographer. Her images portray the dichotomies of American life, the outrages of discrimination that plague the South, the lynching of Kendallís former suitor a pivotal event as she finds her voice as a photographer. Besides the mix of personalities--from Julianís closest friends in New Jersey to Kendallís circle in Lovewood and Paris--world events shape much of the drama against which the lovers play out their poignant romance, restricted by social conventions and laws. Real freedom can be found only in Paris, where American expats form a vibrant creative community. Both Julian and Kendall are unconventional, remarkably strong characters unable to find peace in their relationship.

The years pass as world events mold their choices, Kendall as a war photographer, Julian as an intelligence agent, the pair torn asunder by Kendallís fear of losing her independence. Meanwhile, Julian wants only to help and protect this amazing woman. Fate intervenes for both, the tale coming full circle in Lovewood, Florida, when past and present collide in an unexpected denouement. Goldenís prose is rich and emotionally layered, a balance between real events and the choices of lovers who challenge society for a broader understanding of what is acceptable and what is ultimately too precious to squander.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Luan Gaines, 2015

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