The Kiss is the story of two families, one black and one white, trying to navigate their way through the rapid changes and violence rampant in our nation during the Civil Rights Movement. Neither family was the least bit cognizant of the evil that would bring them together. An innocent peck on the cheek, after a victorious football game provoked a trail of brutality, death, destruction and ultimately, against all odds, a forbidden love.
Set against the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement, we follow Eddie Thorpe and Winston Roberts as their lives collide many times; each struggling in his own way against the changes coming to his world. We see the brutality spawned by the local KKK as the men’s children are attacked. Roberts’ son is murdered, and both men’s daughters raped and left to die. The story’s tapestry includes the frontlines of the movement, such as an attack on the Freedom Riders, the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, a march in Little Rock, and other events of the time. With intrigue and unexpected surprises in the lives of various characters introduced through the story, Strickland takes readers through to a heartfelt ending when “Little Willis” joins the families in joy.
The hateful acts of social injustice continue right to the end, with a young boy’s courage tested as he is called upon to remember his mother’s teaching that hate only creates more hate. A defiant act, nonetheless, brings him some satisfaction.
This story does not offer a “Hollywood happy ending;” it offers instead, hope.