Skip to main content

Heaven, My Home: A Highway 59 Novel


Heaven, My Home: A Highway 59 Novel

Darren Matthews is caught between two worlds. Officially, this African-American lawman is tasked with upholding justice --- currently, he’s working to bring down a neo-Nazi group called the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas. But he’s also dealing with the fallout from his previous case, when he covered up an old family friend’s involvement in the murder of an ABT member, a move that’s still “wreaking havoc on his life and career.” When he’s sent to the faded east Texas town of Jefferson, once one of the largest port cities in the state and now a tourist spot steeped in nostalgia for its antebellum past, to investigate the disappearance of a nine-year-old boy with ties to the Brotherhood, the different parts of his life collide.

Attica Locke follows up her Edgar Award-winning BLUEBIRD, BLUEBIRD with this adept sequel, which shines a light on America’s tense racial politics. Set in the months after Donald Trump’s 2016 election but before his inauguration, Darren is faced with a world where the country’s long-simmering racism is suddenly at full boil. He and his fellow Texas Rangers are “dealing with things they’d never seen in their lifetimes… church burnings; the defacement of a mosque in Bryan; black and brown kids shoved in lunchrooms…” Darren can’t understand it, and he “marveled with befuddled anger at what a handful of scared white people could do to a nation. He never again wanted to hear them…wonder why black folks would torch their own neighborhoods, because in an act of blind fury, white voters had just lit a match to the very country they claimed to love.”

"HEAVEN, MY HOME has the kind of vivid settings...and morally complicated characters that will be familiar to viewers of prestige television."

Given the larger picture, it’s hardly surprising that Darren can’t hide his grimace when his boss tells him that his next assignment is to help track down a kid named Levi King, who once spray-painted the n-word on a neighbor’s home. (Throughout, Darren has to remind himself that even though “the country was growing racists like bumper crops…Levi King deserved the benefit of the doubt.”) The hope is that the hunt for the missing boy --- who disappeared while boating on the vast, swampy Caddo Lake --- might uncover some secrets about the terrorist group of which his imprisoned father is a member. But as Darren digs into the case, he discovers a web of secrets that date back to the Civil War, when a group of former slaves established a free black settlement on the shores of Caddo Lake called Hopetown.

As he tries to figure out what really happened to Levi, Darren confronts racism both subtle and overt. He also has to wrestle with his impulse to protect an elderly black man who might be involved in the boy’s disappearance while wrapping his head around the complicated history of Jefferson and Hopetown. Gradually, he discovers that his initial assumptions about the case don’t square with reality, as Locke reveals in this thoughtful mystery.

In addition to novels, Locke writes for television (including for “When They See Us,” Netflix’s limited series about the Central Park Five case), and HEAVEN, MY HOME has the kind of vivid settings (a spooky bayou, an old hotel heavy on red velvet) and morally complicated characters that will be familiar to viewers of prestige television. If there’s a flaw, it’s that the book can feel overstuffed at times. Midway through the story, a second, barely seen character disappears, and the ultimate fate of this person is treated with a shrug by both the other characters and the author. A subplot involving Darren’s wife, Lisa, and his friend, Greg, never seems to connect with the larger plot, though perhaps it’s setting the stage for a future installment in the Highway 59 series.

Those who dive into this timely mystery undoubtedly will want to find out what Locke has in store for readers next.

Reviewed by Megan Elliott on September 20, 2019

Heaven, My Home: A Highway 59 Novel
by Attica Locke

  • Publication Date: August 25, 2020
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Mulholland Books
  • ISBN-10: 0316363391
  • ISBN-13: 9780316363396