Battersea by Robert H. Nieder
Twenty-year-old Mathias Kamau-Barrett is blessed with The Sense, the same gift his mother possessed. Sensing that Mathias is supposed to spend time on Battersea Island to help the black families (the Gullah) from losing their homes because of exorbitant tax assessments on their properties, the Duke University student takes off for the Georgia coast and quickly becomes acquainted with the islanders. Fărnăz Űsman, a paralegal working to help the families get over the hurdle of State zoning issues, recruits Mathias’s educational prowess to do legal research at the University of Georgia’s Law Library. Mathias’s research is not only met with opposition, but a mysterious set of circumstances – including a death – occurs on the island. The Sense guides Mathias to believe that racism is the motivating factor behind the force to remove “an indigenous population.” Whether or not Mathias can prove that is another issue.
Battersea is the sequel to Sense of a Hummingbird. In his second novel, rising author Robert H. Nieder opens his third person narrative with Mathias’s traumatic birth, the death of his mother (Bridgette Kamau), and the commitment of his once hate-filled white father (Bill Barrett) to raise Mathias in the spirit of his beloved wife. Fast forwarding to 2014, Mathias has to come to terms with the fact that racism is not dead when he gets involved with the islanders’ legal problems. Although Nieder’s characters and plot are a work of fiction, he adeptly incorporates a real issue that once plagued the Gullah and the sophistication of racist groups of this day and age. Nieder keeps his story moving by alternating between various situations involving Mathias and the notorious inner workings of racists. Although Nieder’s plot doesn’t offer too many surprises, readers will be rooting for Mathias as he utilizes his gift in the battle of good over evil.