Reconstructing Jackson - Holly Bush A very well written book. I think the author has done a wonderful job of depicting a wide spectrum of human emotion. There are two main layers to this book - 1) the relationship of Reed and Belle and 2) attitudes towards race relations and slavery in the post antebellum US.

In Belle and Reed the author presents us with two souls who have both suffered from painful pasts, and shows us two very different ways that that can shape a person. Belle, suffering physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her father and brother for her entire life, growing up in poverty with no education, holds onto her dreams to maintain an optimistic outlook on life. Versus Reed who was brought up on a rich southern plantation under the rule of a domineering father and who then loses his legs in the war and is disinherited. He travels to Missouri under a dark cloud of self-pity, broken pride and melancholy with no hopes for the future. Yet these two people come together and Reed finds hope and joy in his future and Belle finally sees her dreams realized. Their different takes on life felt very authentic.

The second part of this story deals with the post-slavery world. Reed, having been raised on a southern plantation, at first has a hard time letting go of the behaviors and prejudices he was raised with. Belle just yearning for love in her life and with a strong moral compass, can see beyond the color of people's skins. And then there are a number of secondary characters that represent so many other attitudes that people would have taken during this confusing time as the country was forced to reassess its economic and social future. There is some VERY strong language used (the 'n' work comes up a few times), that might upset some people, but it is definitely true to the period. The author presents the reader with some harsh truths about this period.