I read Archer by Mira Jeffreys almost a year ago and the story is still with me. I meant to write a review at the time, but I’m glad I waited, because it gave me a chance to realize just how powerful its story is.
Archer follows Lena and Janine, two childhood friends who haven’t spoken in over two decades. Their friendship was shattered by an event that inflicted deep wounds on them both. Lena fled to Kansas and has only now returned to her hometown in Georgia when she learns that her beloved aunt has cancer. The love that Lena and Janine both have for Maybelle requires the two women to face each other—and their past.
The greatest strength of this book is its characters. Each one is relatable and their actions and reactions are understandable. Lena was betrayed by her best friend, then spent years ignoring her anger instead of confronting it. Janine’s life was halted by guilt she can’t overcome. Jack lost the woman he loves and was left to live with the person who drove her away. Nadia, Lena’s daughter, has spent her life knowing that details of her own identity are missing and wants answers Lena isn’t willing to give.
But Archer isn’t just a story about people, it’s also a story about race. Lena is Black and grew up disadvantaged. Janine and Jack are white and grew up privileged. At first, as a white reader in Utah, I wondered if the prejudice portrayed in the book really did still exist in the 1990s, but, even as I wondered, I already knew the answer. Events of the summer of 2020 revealed that not only did they exist 25 years ago, they still exist today. I was horrified by what Lena experienced in her teenage years and troubled by the fact that the same social dynamics existed in her hometown when she returned.
One talent I admire in Mira Jeffreys is her ability to tell a story that makes an impact without being graphic. She didn’t need to describe the most disturbing points of the story in detail for me to feel their emotional impact. Her understanding of people is exceptional.