Book Review: ‘The Secret Of Magic’ Is An Exceptional Tale


In a novel that “brings authentic history to light,”* a young female attorney from New York City attempts the impossible in 1946: attaining justice for a black man in the Deep South.

This is a remarkable book by Deborah Johnson. The story and the characters that bring it to life are extraordinary. The weave of people, places and feelings make it a work to be reckoned with, this tale will shock you, please you, anger you and also make you weep for lost dreams and loves. And every one of us that had our own adventure in the forest of childhood, will understand the story within this book. Regina Robichard is a young black lawyer working for Thurgood Marshall who runs the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in New York in the late 1940s. A letter arrives in the office and Regina opens it and the story begins.

A Southern lady, Mrs. Mary Pickett Calhoun (M.P. Calhoun), requests that Mr. Marshall come down to Mississippi to investigate the death of Joe Howard Wilson, a veteran recently honorably discharged from the United States Army with the rank of Lieutenant. Joe’s father, Willie Willie, works for Mrs. Calhoun’s family and has been with her for years. Willie Willie wants the investigation to be conducted by a black person, preferably from outside the state of Mississippi and he will pay all of their expenses. Marshall and Regina discuss the letter and are not very impressed by it.

Marshall suddenly looks at the letter again and realizes the writer is the well-known author of a book called ‘The Secret of Magic,’ a fairy-tale concerning a black child, a white girl and a white boy who are united together and have adventures in the Magnolia Forest. Regina ends up going to Revere in Mississippi, her first venture into the South and oh my, does she get an express insight into the way black and white people there interact and react with each other and although it’s the late 40s, it might as well be one century earlier.

As the investigation moves forward, it becomes very complicated and Regina finds the children’s story and the murder of Willie Willie’s beloved son Joe, intertwined. It’s a well-written novel, with fact and fiction blended together and a cast of characters that are stellar in their portrayal of black and white people. I thoroughly enjoyed this read and it was a revelation, looking at life from Regina’s perspective. The aura of the old plantations life and death are so strong you can almost taste it. A truly great read.

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Ann McDonald

Book / Movie Critic at Red Carpet Crash
Ann is originally from Dublin, Ireland and currently lives in Dallas, Texas. She was the secretary to the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland for many years and is an avid book reader and reviewer.
Ann McDonald

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