Fifteen years ago, Christopher Tilghman introduced the fictional Mason family of the Eastern Shore’s Mason’s Retreat. In his second novel, he returns to The Right-Hand Shore (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27) to recount the clan’s 18th-century past. This sequel digs into the Masons’ domestic intrigues—offering many rich subplots—-as well as exploring the characters’ role in the larger history of the region and the nation. In his thematic concerns and the rhythmic cadences of his prose, Tilghman makes no secret of his debt to William Faulkner. His novel unfolds as a taut Southern Gothic, in which bloodlines define every child at birth, and mixed blood is the unredeemable scourge of the land as much as its slave-holding history is its indelible blight. Tilghman, who teaches creative writing at the University of Virginia, weaves a mystery and a love story together across racial lines, and the result is spellbinding.
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