Son of a Preacherman Review

Book Review: 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Son of a Preacherman by Marlene Banks, ©2012
Son of a Preacherman: "A historical romance novel set in the 1920s in Tulsa, Oklahoma, depicting the segregated life of African Americans in Northern Tulsa and the tensions leading up to the Tulsa Race Riots."

Billy Ray Matthias, son of the new preacher and Benny Freeman, daughter of an oil rich rancher find each other at a time both want to escape the shadows of their past. Billy Ray’s heart is open for love but Benny’s is fearfully shut.
In 1920, Tulsa, Oklahoma, is a strictly segregated oil rich boomtown. The black region called Greenwood District is an independent enclave of prosperity so much so it’s dubbed the Negro Wall Street. Racial tensions come to a head from a singular incident igniting a murderous and destructive rampage against Negroes in Greenwood.
Will Billy Ray’s strong faith and determination survive the daunting trials and deadly riot?
Can Benny get beyond her bitterness and regain what she abandoned because of heartbreaking disappointment?
A community is decimated and lives are dramatically and forever changed in this saga of love, racial conflict, and a soaring faith in God.

My Review:
I was interested in reading Son of a Preacherman by Marlene Banks for two reasons. I had just finished reading her novel, Ruth's Redemption, and liked it very much. She is a very thorough writer and I like her openness and style of expressing the characters as those we could walk among. I searched for other writings by her and found this novel. My second reason is, I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, from sixth grade to my middle twenties. I did not know of the Greenwood Avenue story until I was older. I would come by the railroad tracks north of the downtown area, unaware of its history and prominence. Historical Fiction is my very favorite genre. I appreciate the research the authors do to place their characters within the events/happenings of the time period.
It is the summer of 1920 in the Greenwood District of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Our main characters are Benjamina (Benny) Freeman and William Ray (Billy Ray) Matthais. Both are in transition. The story is woven around the Freeman and Matthais families. Billy Ray and his family have just moved to Tulsa from Durham, North Carolina. He is the handsome younger son of the church's new pastor. Benny is the daughter of the oil rich Freeman family. Billy Ray is convinced that Benny is the woman God would have him settle down with. Benny, on the other hand, recently had her heart broken. She does not want to be attracted to Billy Ray, to be let down again. She is not the least bit interested in getting involved anytime soon. She meets Billy Ray at her mother's dress shop next to the pharmacy he and his brother, Napoleon (Nappy) who is a surgeon, have bought. Unfortunate experiences with women behind him, Billy Ray is looking to a start fresh. He is nice looking, educated, and very spiritual. Poor judgment on his part, keeping company in the 1920s was viewed in the direction of marriage. He fit very well into the song written by John Hurley and Ronnie Wilkins, Son of a Preacher Man:

Billy-Ray was a preacher's son ♪♫•*¨*•
And when his daddy would visit he'd come along
When they gathered around and started talkin'
.¸¸♥ ¸¸.•* That's when Billy would take me walkin'
Out through the back yard we'd go walkin'
Then he'd look into my eyes *•♫♪ •♥•.¸
Lord knows to my surprise
The only one who could ever reach me
Was the son of a preacher man... .¸¸♥ ¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪

He unknowingly has company coming, expecting to uproot his life as he knows it. Truth triumphs.

Benny's older brother, Cordell (Cord), ranches with their father. Cord has issues of his own and is married to a loose woman who married him for his money and is not faithful to him. Justified actions separate.

Benny, the sister in the middle, having come out of a devastating experience, has been withdrawn and depressed, not mingling with others. As Billy's pursuit of Benny intensifies, so does the political and social climate in the prosperous African American neighborhood known as the Greenwood District.

Racial tensions in Tulsa escalate when Dick Rowland, a black man, is accused by a local newspaper of raping Sarah Page, a white woman, on an elevator. Benny's youngest brother, Ethan, is an attorney caught in the struggle of protecting the people he represents and his family. Radical lawyers fighting for equal rights no one else will touch, representation, new laws. Despite continuous threats, Ethan and Maynard Vaughn, a radical white attorney and Ethan's mentor, put their weight and energy behind helping Dick. The White Glove Society, a racist group, seeks to destroy not only Dick but all the African Americans in this successful black owned community.

As tensions come to a head and violence breaks out, Billy and Benny are caught up in the heat of chaos. He vows to keep her safe but will Benny let him? Will faith in God be enough to sustain the people of the community as their lives are changed forever by deadly acts of hatred?

Fires burning along Archer and Greenwood during the Tulsa race riot of 1921.

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal,
but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.
2 Corinthians 10:4

In the turmoil of their lives, rebuilding and hope are possible as they place their faith and trust in the Lord. Forgiveness and pulling together are needed for these families. I am ready to turn the page and continue this story of rebuilding a people.

Oklahoma News Report
Greenwood Yesterday and Today
Featured in Top Stories

The district where Tulsa's 1921 Race Riots occurred is close to being added to the National Registry of Historic Places, but controversy over the project abounds. Greenwood community leaders are concerned parts of the district once dubbed 'America's Black Wall Street' will be left out in favor of sections of Tulsa's downtown in order to meet a historic building requirement for the Registry. Ironically, the reason Greenwood doesn't have the required historical buildings is because many were razed during the Race Riots. But out of the ashes of those razed buildings and broken dreams rose a cultural epicenter, now flourishing with restaurants, recreational activities, and monuments to a harrowing moment in Tulsa's past.
Originally broadcast on August 17, 2012

Marlene Banks resides in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In addition to being a prolific writer she has an associate degree in Theology from Rhema Bible Institute in Keysville, Virginia, and is currently pursuing studies to initiate a Christian counseling ministry. Marlene is a member of Bethel Deliverance International Church in Wyncote, Pennsylvania. Her work resume includes forty years in nursing and business.
A divine gift of storytelling with her unique voice and love of Christ creates engaging and inspirational novels. She considers her fiction writing an avenue to communicate the Gospel and Christian principles. It is also Marlene’s goal to bridge the gap between faith-based and secular literature. RUTH’S REDEMPTION is her first release and SON OF A PREACHERMAN is her second.
I would like to read and review her third book, Greenwood and Archer:

"Greenwood and Archer continues the stories of Billy Ray Matthias and Benny Freeman and the residents of the Greenwood District after the historical Tulsa Race Riots of 1921. Though a sequel to Son of a Preacherman, Greenwood and Archer can be read as a stand alone book."

Thank you to Moody Publishers for this copy of Son of a Preacherman in exchange for a review in my own words; a very well-written story.