In this luminous narrative inspired by the fascinating real case of “the Blue People of Kentucky,” Isla Morley probes questions of identity, love, and family in her breathtaking new novel.
In 1937, there are recesses in Appalachia no outsiders have ever explored. Two government-sponsored documentarians from Cincinnati, Ohio—a writer and photographer—are dispatched to penetrate this wilderness and record what they find for President Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration. For photographer Clay Havens, the assignment is his last chance to reboot his flagging career. So when he and his journalist partner are warned away from the remote Spooklight Holler outside of town, they set off eagerly in search of a headline story. What they see will haunt Clay into his old age: Jubilee Buford, a woman whose skin is a shocking and unmistakable shade of blue. From this happenstance meeting between a woman isolated from society and persecuted her whole life, and a man accustomed to keeping himself at lens distance from others, comes a mesmerizing story in which the dark shades of betrayal, prejudice, fear, and guilt, are refracted along with the incandescent hues of passion and courage. Panning across the rich rural aesthetic of eastern Kentucky, The Last Blue is a captivating love story and an intimate portrait of what it is like to be truly one of a kind.
Isla Morley grew up in South Africa during apartheid. She is the author of Come Sunday, which won the Janet Heidinger Prize for Fiction and was a finalist for the Commonwealth Prize. Her novel Above was an IndieNext pick, and Best Buzz Book, and a Publishers Weekly Best New Book. She lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband, daughter, a cat, two dogs, and four tortoises.
Publisher: Pegasus Books (May 5, 2020)
Length: 336 pages
“A rich historical portrait of the region, Morley’s love story is for fans of photography and history buffs looking for novels set in the WPA era."
– Library Journal
“A novel not to be missed. Morley explores, with the sensuality and insight, the violence resulting from intolerance, ignorance and preconceived ideas. The Last Blue poses the question of morality and justice through a captivating love story.”
– The Independent
“Morley has constructed a memorable and moving narrative, complicated by the troubles of the past and shadowed by the risk of betrayal, which probes what it means to truly be seen and understood for oneself.”
“I devoured it in gulps, desperate to find out what happens yet also enjoying Morley’s lyrical prose and descriptions of Appalachia.”
– The Koala Mom
"The writing, oh, man, the writing! There are some amazing scenes throughout the book that really took me from the highest highs to the lowest lows and back again! I loved how much of a ride this book was! A mark of a good book for me is when I can't stop thinking about the story or the characters after I close the pages and these characters and their story are very much stuck to me!"
– A Bookish Affair
"A compelling tale of survival, reinvention, and hope. Vivid and poignant."
– The Boston Globe (Praise for Isla Morley)
"Intense and ambitious. Exquisitely detailed."
– Los Angeles Magazine (Praise for Isla Morley)
"An arresting, heart-wrenching novel. . . . a phenomenal debut."
– The San Diego Union Tribune (Praise for Isla Morley)
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