Book Review: Anywhere You Run by Wanda M. Morris
By John ValeriNovember 14, 2022
Wanda M. Morris emerged as a powerhouse suspense novelist with last year’s All Her Little Secrets. That book won both the 2022 Lefty Award for Best Debut Mystery Novel, the Georgia Author of the Year Award for Best First Novel, and was nominated for several other accolades. It’s also under option as a limited series at Showtime. Now, Morris—who is a corporate attorney and a married mother of three—returns with the historical thriller Anywhere You Run, which captures the treachery and turmoil of the American South.
Summer, 1964: Sisters Violet and Marigold Richards live together in Jackson, Mississippi, in a family home that’s haunted by memories of sadness and despair: the accidental death of their older sister, Rose, eight years before and the subsequent passing of both grief-stricken parents. Then, there’s the specter of the South, which remains deeply divided despite the abolition of Jim Crow laws; in fact, three men were recently murdered in nearby Neshoba County for trying to help African Americans precure the ability to vote. Simply being black is (still) a vulnerability, but Violet carries an even greater burden: she has killed a white man who brutalized her and went unpunished. Consequently, she must flee Jackson, and her sister, in the hopes that she can outrun her past.
To do so, twenty-one-year-old Violet (who soon assumes the name Vera Henderson) skips out on the white man who wants to marry her, making off with his wallet—which, unbeknownst to her, contains evidence of a crime that somebody would stop at nothing to cover up. Though she does her best to acclimate to life in Chillicothe, Georgia, she can never quite settle in; while things are better there, they’re still plenty dangerous, and the townies (including the Sheriff) make it their business to know hers. Meanwhile, Marigold—the sensible sister who dreams of becoming a lawyer—finds herself pregnant and in an abusive, loveless marriage. When she finally works up the nerve to leave her husband and reunite with Violet/Vera, she can’t imagine what will follow.
The narrative is told in two parts and alternates between the sisters’ perspectives, a structure that is both natural and nuanced; indeed, each has a history and perspective that helps to illuminate the depths of the other. This is further amplified by the inclusion of Rose’s diary entries, which are sprinkled lightly throughout and serve as a reminder of innocence lost. Morris also amps up the tension by introducing a third POV: Mercer Buggs, a small-time player from Jackson who is hired to find Violet and report back. Despite growing reservations about the job, Mercer has a wife and critically ill child to support and can’t afford to walk away from the money. When paths converge in Chillicothe, blood will flow in the streets. Who will survive—and at what cost?
In Anywhere You Run, Wanda M. Morris offers a poignant, page-turning reminder that we can’t escape the past—but we can find the courage confront it. Part crime novel and part character study, it’s also a cataloging of conscience that shows how the journey toward absolution begins from within. History comes alive in her capable hands, proving there’s nothing more fettering, or freeing, than truth.