everyman

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What to expect

Eve Mann arrives in Ideal, Georgia, in 1972 looking for answers about the mother who died giving her life. A mother named Mercy. A mother who for all of Eve’s twenty-two years has been a mystery and a quest. Eve’s search for her mother, and the father she never knew, is a mission to discover her identity, her name, her people, and her home.

Eve’s questions and longing launch a multigenerational story that sprawls back to the turn of the twentieth century, settles into the soil of the South, the blood and souls of Black folk making love and life and fleeing in a Great Migration into the savage embrace of the North.

Eve is a young woman coming of age in Chicago against the backdrop of the twin fires and fury of the civil rights and Black Power movements—a time when everything and everyone, it seems, longs to be made anew.

At the core of this story are the various meanings of love—how we love and, most of all, whom we love. everyman is peopled by rebellious Black women straining against the yoke of convention and designated identities, explorers announcing their determination to be and to be free. There is Nelle, Eve’s best friend and heart, who claims her right both to love women and to always love Eve as a sister and friend.

Brother Lee Roy, professor and mentor, gives Eve the tools for her genealogical search while turning away from his own bitter harvest of family secrets. Mama Ann, the aunt who has raised Eve and knows everything about Mercy, offers Eve a silence that she defines as protection and care. But it is James and Geneva, two strangers whom Eve meets in Ideal, who plumb the depths of their own hurt and reconciliations to finally give Eve the gift of her past, a reimagined present, and finally, her name.

Critics Review

  • “In this lilting and lyrical epic, readers follow the meandering ancestry of twenty-two-year-old Every Mann, known as Eve, as she searches for answers and meaning in her genealogy…everyman is a gorgeous, multigenerational examination of the Great Migration and the ripple effects of mysteries that were left in its wake for the descendants of those who sought ‘the warmth of other suns.’”

    Booklist
  • “History owns every page of this beautifully intimate novel, residing as willfully as the fictional world Conner creates. With writing that is both smart and unapologetically edifying, Conner depicts a human experience with totality that is strikingly small, made so by the binds that tie us in our infinite search for understanding. A powerful read.”

    Edward A. Farmer, author of Pale: A Novel
  • “Conner’s inviting debut unearths a young Black woman’s family history…Conner weaves plenty of details of African American history throughout, such as the founding of the Tuskegee Institute and Martin Luther King Jr.’s alliance with a Chicago street gang, seamlessly connecting these events to the characters’ lives. Overall, this wonderfully evokes a sense of place, and a palpable curiosity about the past.”

    Publishers Weekly
  • “everyman by M Shelly Conner is a mural, a bold and colorful exploration of personal and communal history. At its core, the work is a bountiful examination of Black life before and after the Great Migration, deeply researched and carefully rendered, the narratives inform and intersect, challenge and comfort; fueled by intellectual inquiry and steeped in history, this book is personal and political, an unapologetic engagement of the heart and the mind. With this novel, Conner invites us to explore the stories we tell ourselves about who we are, where we came from, and how we define home.”

    Sheree L. Greer, author of A Return to Arms
  • “Boomers, Gen Jones, Millennials, Gen X, Gen Y, and beyond have much to learn from Dr. Conner, and the stories are telling and compelling as each character’s thread creates the tapestry that Eve is seeking to create. She weaves words, actions, recollections, and even though a picture is forming, it will always be gloriously incomplete. Summer, fall, winter—any season is perfect for this book. Get two today—one to keep and one to share. The loaner will never return.”

    Out in Jersey
  • everyman is the rare twenty-first-century novel that feels like Morrison and Walker guided the hand of the characters, and the writer, calling it home. M Shelly Conner writes as if all of our lives depend on her art. After reading everyman, I’m convinced she’s right.”

    Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy: An American Memoir

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