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The Knowing*

Bulwark and Mrs. Muir

In this return to fictional Bulwark, Georgia, we first see JB as a 70-something-year-old man in the present time. He helps a couple who have been injured. While they wait for help to arrive, the woman sees the picture of his wife and accuses her of being a witch. After they leave, this prompts JB to have a reminiscence about their relationship. The novella takes place mostly fifty-plus years ago. JB and Ellie meet on her first day of school in Bulwark. She’s a wealthy northern girl and he’s the son of a poor peanut farmer, but there’s an instant attraction and what JB’s grandmother calls the knowing between them. A secret relationship develops, but when he goes off on a full scholarship to college, she doesn’t reply to his letters.

It’s a very short, sweet, yet poignant novella, depicting a brief period in the early relationship between JB and Ellie. I like the added paranormal elements, both the concept of the knowing, where men especially will know when they meet the woman they are supposed to be with, and the Civil War dreams. The idea of romance across the highs and lows of social strata is not uncommon, of course, but this story had an added resonance with these young people who seemed not only to share this current incarnation but a past one as well. The ending is simply beautiful.

My only quibble with the book is its cover. The story takes place over 50 years ago; I presume this is relative to modern times. The couple’s clothing doesn’t seem to reflect the mid-to-late 1960s nor does it depict their differences in social status.