Set in 1902 in the Mississippi Delta community of Loring, where Jim Crow is hampering the progress of Reconstruction, this lyrical novel tells the story of Loda Jackson, the town's first black postmistress. The citizens of Loring accept her appointment to the post until Tandy Payne, the mayor's brother and a no-good gambler, comes to town. He begins to foment opposition among Loring's racist factions, and Loda is soon fired. But when President Roosevelt himself takes action, she is promptly reinstated, a decision that angers the town's prejudiced population. Violence looms as Tandy clashes with his brother, and the people of Loring turn against each other. This widely praised novel an original and perceptive look at life in the South has been compared to the work of William Faulkner.