Giving forgiveness a try

CNN has begun a series on the book The Devil in Pew Number Seven by Rebecca Nichols. Devil is known in the part of the country in which it’s set as simply The Book – as auspicious a nickname as it is potentially stress-inducing.

And no wonder: It surrounds the true story of Nichols’ small-town North Carolina upbringing – a time pocked with terrible memories of her father’s persecution (as a pastor) and her mother’s death.

That little girl [Nichols] who saw her momma get killed, whose home was bombed over and over before the hail of bullets — they remember her. She was the brave 8-year-old who testified against the killer. She’s grown up now, living in suburban Nashville, and the author of The Book.

The actual title of Rebecca Nichols’ memoir is “The Devil in Pew Number Seven.” It describes the six-year campaign against her father, a preacher in this community of just a few dozen souls.

The man who killed her mother remains in the area, down a road where farm animals outnumber residents. He earns only a few pages in Rebecca’s book. Her focus — the “devil” in her title — is the man who orchestrated the terror: Horry James Watts, the rich and powerful former Columbus County commission chairman.

Many people in the county didn’t fully know the extent of Watts’ involvement until The Book laid it out, says Ann White, who works in nearby Whiteville at the main library, where copies don’t stay on the shelf for long. White speaks in a whisper, as librarians tend to do. But she’s not just being mindful of her patrons. The Book has everyone stirred up.

For now all we have is the first of four installments. Yet it all seems to point to forgiveness. So stay tuned.

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