“Like a ripening gourd the hollow space inside Elise widened and began to dry, but all the seeds of new life had died during the dark of that one night.”
Loosely framed on a modern retelling of the Biblical book of Hosea, Blood Vines moves fluidly from darkly inspirational to Southern gothic as it weaves together the three-generational story of Elise Rabideau, a seventeen-year-old girl of mixed race, Joseph King, a white pastor in a segregated town and the tormented lives of their offspring. After returning from the Korean War and graduating from seminary, King finds himself the accidental champion of civil rights in an East Texas town during the summer of 1963. When he marries Elise, because of a vision, he quickly becomes a pariah only to be left raising their three children on his own when Elise leaves him after multiple infidelities.
Despondent, King retreats from life while his three children grow up, to varying degrees, angry, unloved and neglected. Every evening he fingers over old letters from Elise to their children, which he has kept secret and never opened. At age seventeen, his daughter, Cassie, discovers the letters, and with them, skeletons that could not longer stay buried. Both King’s impudent youth and impotent middle-age collectively unravel during a night of anger and violence that destroys what little peace still remained in the small town of Bethel, Texas.
As an old man, bitter and full of regret, King’s bastard granddaughter, Samantha, visits him on his vineyard. Her need for discovery and his need for redemption enable them to forge a healing relationship, open up their futures and break the generational curse that had come to town the fateful night Elise had first arrived.
Blood Vines examines the fruit of zealous, religious obedience and rebellion and their binding effects on the generations to follow.