“A Place at the Table” (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, $25) by Susan Rebecca White, is a dark look at Southern life and the effect it has on three disparate characters.
Alice Stone is a black woman who grew up in Emancipation Township, N.C. In 1929, she and her brother find their world upended when they discover a black man hanging from a tree in the woods, and they see the men who did it. Then her brother talks back to a store owner in a nearby town, and he must disappear in order to save his life.
Bobby Banks was raised a Baptist preacher's son in Decatur, Ga. His story begins in 1977, when he's a teenager. He's always known he was different. His older brothers have tormented him and called him names because he enjoys helping his mother clean and cook, rather than joining in their boyish pastimes.
When his parents walk into his room and find him and a friend in a compromising position, they plan to send him either to military school or to a home for wayward boys. He leaves and goes to live with his grandmother, Meemaw. She tells him he is God's precious boy and gives him $5,000 that she has saved over the years baking and selling her delicious pound cakes, so that he can go to Manhattan and make a life for himself.