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Fate Moreland’s Widow by John Lane

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The protagonist of this novel, Ben Crocker, witnesses on Labor Day in 1935 a boat on a lake owned by a cotton mill owner capsize and its three occupants drown. The mill scion was charged with murder. In 1988, Crocker, still haunted by this tragedy, began to seriously look into the calamity and attempt to deal with the ramifications of it. "In this engaging first novel by acclaimed nature writer John Lane, self-proclaimed company man Ben Crocker tells his story, as the overworked, underpaid flunky of a 1930's textile mogul in the Carolina Blue Ridge foothills. The unlovable boss man and his big cruiser have swamped a small boat on the company lake and drowned three people. Among the dead are the husband and child of gorgeous Novie Moreland, dream girl of half the countryside. The young Widow Moreland is nobody's fool, but nobody's paragon either, as smitten Ben must learn. Lane's cautionary tale of land, labor, love, and loyalty is as pertinent today as it was in its Depression era of mill uprisings and shootings."―Dot Jackson. "John Lane deftly captures the hardscrabble plight of the southern mill worker and the ambitious greed of the southern mill owner in Fate Moreland's Widow. But he does an even better job of capturing the quandary of Ben Crocker, the man precariously stuck in the middle."―Wiley Cash. "The literature of the southern mill village has been underdone and this magnificent novel adds greatly to it. What John Lane does better than anyone I have read is explore the interrelatedness of both the mill worker and the mill owner, trapped by the desires and abuses of unchecked power. Their symbiosis is opaque and troublesome. In the widow Novie Moreland, John has crafted a masterfully nuanced new symbol of male obsession and female resilience poised to become the Circe of the Carolina foothills."―Pat Conroy. "John Lane has written a crackerjack page-turner that brings the whole violent and complicated struggle of the southern textile mills to brilliant, blazing life. Narrator Ben Crocker is a man caught between two worlds: the poverty of his own childhood spent among hill people and millworkers versus the prosperity and social status attached to his job as accountant for a big mill owner. When murder brings these two worlds into direct collision, Crocker finds himself the point man. I couldn't put this book down. Fate Moreland's Widow is part mystery, part sociology, part love story, with the best kind of surprising twist at the end―I admit I never saw it coming, though now it seems inevitable."―Lee Smith. "John Lane has long been recognized as one of the South's finest poets and memoirists. This debut establishes him as one of our finest novelists as well. His poet's eye for detail seamlessly merges with a born storyteller's gift for narrative. Fate Moreland's Widow gives voice to those who endured one of the most painful and neglected chapters in American history."―Ron Rash. A retired professor, author John Lane lives in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, a 2021 paperback reprint of a 2015 release. 248 pages. Trade paperback.