“Witch Ball” is a fictional novel set in the very real city of Columbus, Mississippi. It is told from the point of view of GERTRUDE “TRULY” MOORE. Truly is a high-school student at loose ends, on summer vacation from school.
She loves to spend time with her great aunt, Fleur, a larger than life, quirky old lady. AUNT FLEUR has recently returned to Columbus after many years of living in other cities. Now, back in her home town, she has created her own persona. She makes a living selling “Accessorines,” accessories for figurines. She also dabbles in magic charms.
It won’t take astute readers long to realize that Aunt Fleur is transgendered. The townspeople may not be that perceptive, but they know she is “different,” a sin in this “Buckle of the Bible Belt.” Many people suspect that Aunt Fleur is a witch.
Truly has a crush on ERIC ALEXANDER, a college boy who works at the library. Her parents, KAY AND TOMMY, are disturbed to learn of their daughter’s friendship with a boy that they consider “not their sort.”
Kay and Tommy harbor a long-standing bitterness against Eric’s parents that is rooted in high-school heartbreak. But, there was something else. Ruby (Eric’s mother) was raised by CLEMENTINE, a black cleaning-lady who had worked in Kay’s childhood home. Races do not mix well in Columbus. Although, Ruby was perceived as being white, adopted as an infant, the stigma of her black “mother” was a source of prejudice.
The serenity of the town’s summer is shattered by the murder of a respected high school track coach, LEWIS RUSSELL. As the murder becomes more difficult to solve, a witch hunt begins.
Columbus is a city where “sameness” is expected. Everyone is Christian, for the most part Baptist. Anyone offbeat is viewed as strange. It is a place that thrives on gossip. The rumors began flying. Could a kooky old lady also be a murderer? In this town, it doesn’t matter what is true, it only matters what everyone believes.
Of course, the murder is solved. (You knew it wasn’t Aunt Fleur.)
Truly sees Eric differently from her original impression – less attractive. Eric reveals himself as homophobic, and perhaps even a bit boring.
There are two themes to the book. One is the idea that we can create our own reality, and our identity. Aunt Fleur altered her gender and her persona. She helps her great-niece to evolve from Gertrude into Truly.
There is a more important cautionary message advising us to be careful who we deify, or vilify. Demons may not have pointy horns and tails, and angels may not have wings.