Readers will remember Susan Grenville as the spoiled daughter of a wealthy cotton planter. She grew up believing in the shared conviction that her family was composed of benevolent slave owners, caring for those who worked for them, treating them as equals, and even welcoming them into their family -- except for that embarrassing detail about owners and slaves. The coming of Civil War, and particularly Jonathan's strong abolitionist views, challenged her traditional views. Reluctantly she supported Jonathan's decision to free their slaves.
She learned to cook, and clean, and grow vegetables. She invited her African cousin and her family to dinner. And she learned to hate war in all its aspects. But when the conflict was over, Susan's family heritage began to resurface. She urged the family to return to Charleston, in the hope that they could re-discover the lifestyle that the war had stolen from them.
But this time, Susan's main concerns are with the changes occurring in her own family. On every side she sees her grown children 's lives spiraling away from her. No longer the privileged offspring of one of Charleston's elite families, they seem to be making mistake after mistake as they choose to become craftsmen, shopkeepers, and politicos. Susan also worries that they are choosing unfortunate marriage partners. And as for the younger children, she fears their education -- or lack thereof -- will doom them to follow in their older siblings' footsteps.
Susan has sacrificed much during the war years. Now she wants to turn away from the problems of the world and concentrate on repairing her children's lives. If you could hear her voice, she would be saying, "Haven't you done enough for the slaves, Jonathan? Haven't I sacrificed enough? When does our family get to have enough?