The Book of Marie

 In spring of 1962, a young black girl is killed at a civil rights demonstration on a university campus in Atlanta.  The next day a home in Georgia is burned.  Both events are etched into the memory of Cole Bishop, eerily playing out the predictions of a former classmate named Marie Fitzpatrick. 

Cole and Marie are high school seniors when they first meet in fall 1954.  Cole is a native-born Southerner accepting the traditions of segregation as a way of life.  Marie is a recent transplant from Washington, DC, a brilliant and assertive nonconformist with bold predictions about a new world that is about to be ushered in by the force of desegregation.  The odd friendship between the two of them continues after high school in a series of tender and revealing letters. 

The story revolves around the fiftieth reunion of the Overton High School class of 1955.  Cole’s return for the reunion reunites him with classmates who, over time, have accepted a guarded assimilation of the races.

He is also reacquainted with two black men – Moses Elder, the town’s mayor, and Littlejohn Curry, a reclusive artist who carries the scars of the burned house, and in those encounters, he understands clearly the influence of Marie on his life. 

The Book of Marie is the story of a generation—whites and blacks—who ignited the war of change.  Yet, it is also as much about the power of place—the finding of home—as it is about the history of events. 

James Stevens, Author; from his review on

Terry Kay has crafted a beautiful, realistic look at the people of his native state of Georgia and their reactions to the arrival of integration and the many changes it brought to their lives. The citizens of Overton, GA, a small rural community with a class C high school, are seen as teenagers in the 1950s, and again at their 50th high school reunion.

Marie, an outsider from the North who joins the senior class in 1954, is an outspoken critic of all things Southern, and is shunned by her class members except for Cole, the popular football quarterback and very traditional Southern male. Despite their cultural differences, an unexplained attraction emerges.

After their graduation and separation, their strange friendship is continued and revealed through the letters they exchange as the years pass. The arrival of the 50th Reunion vividly shows the changes that have occurred in Overton because of integration and civil rights, and the direct effect it has had on the lives of the class of 1954.

Through his many brilliantly developed characters Kay also addresses the issues of male aging, and the importance of place and friendship in creating a satisfactory life.

The Book of Marie has captured a sometimes forgotten generation and its role in history. It is a stunning discovery.

James Stevens

I just finished The Book of Marie this morning and wanted to thank you immediately. I am in awe. Loved it. Loved the way you capture the truths of the cultural changes in the south respectfully but honestly, loved the way you make the bonds between men and women feel precious and honor intelligent, spirited women, and loved your definition of teaching.

I was a blubbering idiot by page 49, and read the last pages in spurts of tears and smiles. Finished thinking I'll read it again soon.
Jennifer Frisch, Teacher