What a wonderful and interesting book. Chesnutt was an African American author who wrote around the turn of the 20th century. Who knew there were such people a century ago? Oops, my whiteness is showing again.
Anyway, this book is set in the south just after the Civil War. The primary problem it addresses is mixing the races, so to speak. John Warwick, a prosperous young man visits a small town, Patesville. At night, he sneaks off to visit the women who live in a nice house behind a hedge of cedars. It turns out to be where his mother, Mis' Molly Walden and sister, Rena, live. John has been gone for ten years and has "passed for white". He thinks his sister should return back with him to his home. He has a small child for whom she could help care. He has become a widower. But first, he sends her off to school to become refined in the ways of white society.
When Rena, now known as Rowena Warwick, joins him, she fits immediately into the polite, chivalric society of the better class of white folks. A young man, George Tryon, falls in love with Rowena and they set a date for their marriage. But then, Rena has a dream about her mother's being sick. So, she returns to Patesville to nurse her. By chance, Tryon has some business in Patesville and sees Rena there and realizes that she wasn't white after all. It seems she has slightly "tainted" blood, and it would never do to similarly taint one's own blood line.
So, of course, we have the problem that still plagues our society even now in the 21st century. Will true love and true character find a way to remove the blinders we have placed on ourselves by our specious views on race?