This book deals with three generations of slaves owned by Francoise Derbanne. The Derbanne plantation was located in Cane River, Louisiana.
Suzette - who will grow up envying the Ones with Last Names - is a house slave of the age of nine when she first comes face to face with the reality of her family's situation. Until that point, she's been the best friend of the plantation owner's daughter. She spends her days in the Derbanne's home, which not one of the great plantation homes of the South, is comfortable and spacious. Her mother Elisabeth is a cook in the household. Suzette wishes she could see more of the rest of her family, who live down in the "quarters" but she's relatively content. But all this changes the day Francoise Derbanne slaps her. The mistress has criticized one of Elisabeth's peach cobblers, saying it had too much sugar and made her husband sick. Suzette has jumped to her mother's defense, pointing out it was actually too much bourbon that made the man ill and is punished for her impertinence. From that point on, she'll take great joy in sneaking out whenever she can to pee on Francoise's rosebushes.
For a time, Suzette will remain a feisty child. But this changes after she's raped by an older Frenchman. Their relationship will continue for years against her will. Suzette tries to persuade Monsieur Daurat to grant her children their freedom, but he refuses to do so, even after he sets up a household with another free woman of color.
This book follows Suzette until her children are grown, at which point it becomes the story of her daughter Philomene, who will find herself in much the same situation as her mother. She does for a short time have a happy life married to the slave Clement, by whom she'll have twins. But Clement is sold when the farm they live on begins to go under and the babies die. When a slaveowner named Narcisse begins to pursue Philomene, she submits to him. But she is ultimately in control of their relationship, due to the fact that she says she's psychic. Sometimes she tells him of "visions" that she hasn't really had and thus leads him to make the choices she wants.
This report prepared by Ann Gaines