4 star


The Secret of Magic

By Deborah Johnson

ISBN# 9780399157721

Author’s Website:

Brought to you by OBS reviewer Kayt


In 1946, a young female attorney from New York City attempts the impossible: attaining justice for a black man in the Deep South.

Regina Robichard works for Thurgood Marshall, who receives an unusual letter asking the NAACP to investigate the murder of a returning black war hero. It is signed by M. P. Calhoun, the most reclusive author in the country.

As a child, Regina was captivated by Calhoun’s The Secret of Magic, a novel in which white and black children played together in a magical forest.

Once down in Mississippi, Regina finds that nothing in the South is as it seems. She must navigate the muddy waters of racism, relationships, and her own tragic past. The Secret of Magic brilliantly explores the power of stories and those who tell them.


The Secret of Magic is a well written novel that provokes some introspection of thereader. I think it really would not matter where you live, where you are from or what your roots are, it would have the same effect. I am sure this book will bring out different emotions and thoughts from each reader. Before reading it, I checked reviews and it seems everyone had drastically different feelings about The Secret of Magic. I can truly understand now. I read it from the perspective of a southern white woman who grew up as desegregation was in its infancy.

This book intertwines fact and fiction to tell a deeply moving story that hits on so many different cylinders. It begins with Veteran Joe Howard Wilson returning home as a decorated soldier, riding a segregated bus to see his father again. His death brings Regina(Reggie) Mary Robichard to the tiny Mississippi town. Reggie is a female working for Thurgood Marshall in New York. When a letter from a famous author arrives asking for their help, Reggie feels an immediate pull to go help. As a child the book The Secret of Magic talked to Reggie. It was banned in several “cotton” states for featuring a black child on the cover along two white children.

Reggie, coming from NY, sees a different south than she thought would meet her. It is hard to understand the relationship between the races as they seem to be living in two different worlds, but together at times. Things are not always as they seem and Reggie has a hard time understanding that and why it is that way. She is not able to get to the help she needs from anyone to start with, but as she stays, she is able to get into the dynamics of the town. The interactions are at times impactful, irritating and even hilarious. This is one of my favorite parts of the book.

The characters in The Secret of Magic are interesting, well written and intriguing. Ms Johnson did a wonderful job of bringing to life the south in the 40s. The relationship between races in the south has always been a bit different than elsewhere and as a southerner I was impressed with her attempts to illustrate them in words. Many people believe the north was so much further ahead of the south in getting the races together. I do not think that is exactly true. And I believe this book shows some of that. Yes the north gave more rights to minorities, however the races lived separate of each other. In the south, the races, while different, were forced together. This book is not just about race and the difficulties and pains that brought us to where we are now, but also about relationships in general. It was not so preachy, yet preached, not so painful, but full of pain, not too sad, but full of sadness. I enjoyed The Secret of Magic and would recommend it to anyone interested in historical novels.

*OBS would like to thank the publisher for supplying a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review*