In Anywhere You Run, two sisters struggle to survive racism along with the trauma of losing their parents and an older sister. In a diary, oldest sister Rose described their father “just a man who wants all the same things every man is entitled to if this country were free.” Rose wonders “what ‘fair’ would feel like,” conceding “All three of us like little birds, our wings clipped by life in Mississippi.” Jackson, Mississippi, is a dangerous place in 1964 at the cusp of the Civil Rights Movement.
“Fair” is particularly challenging for women in their twenties who must contend with sexism, racism and economic inequality. For both, fleeing town is the natural solution when their problems become insurmountable.
Younger sister Violet, a beautiful free spirit, relishes a good time. After shooting and killing a white man who raped her, she tricks a lover to leave town before she running away a second time and purchasing a bus ticket for Washington, DC. Worried the police might be following, Violet abandons the bus in a small town of Chillicothe, Georgia, first working as a housemaid and then a short-order cook. She concludes, “Killing Huxley gave me some justice, but it took away my freedom.”
Marigold is ambitious, volunteering for a civil rights group while hoping to attend college and study law. But then she becomes pregnant with an out-of-town lawyer who declines marriage. To salvage her reputation, she instead quickly marries an irresponsible would-be club owner, and the two leave for Cleveland. But a strong home life, reinforced by parents who provide love, encouragement and values, can shield individuals against the external forces of hatred. Author Wanda Morris describes the trap of an abusive marriage as terrible and cruel as systemic racism, and Marigold realizes “it was fear that had landed me in a pregnancy and a marriage I never wanted.”
Violet’s wealthy lover hires an amateur and uneducated detective with an ill child who tracks Marigold to find Violet. The detective is protective of his own family but shrugs about violent treatment of blacks throughout the South, ignorantly assuming a zero-sum game, “less of them, more for him.”
The two sisters reunite in Chillicothe, but not before more treacherous encounters with the detective and the Klan. Despite a slow and repetitive start, the book quickly picks up speed with suspense and heart.
Each woman runs to solve her problems, but cannot escape her character, family lessons on justice, or sisterly love.