Every so often, a book appears that manage to both tell a story you haven’t heard before, and tell it so amazingly well that you can’t believe you haven’t heard it before. This is also one of the most well-written and readable books I’ve seen in a long time, and it makes you proud to know that people can work their way through unbelievable circumstances to get to where they deserve to be, while also making you a little depressed that people ever had to go through those circumstances, in the first place. This is The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, and it’s the story of the migration of millions of black southerners to northern cities, roughly dating from 1915 to 1970. What makes this book so readable and evocative is that she tells it through the stories of three specific people. Ida Mae Gladney, who moved from Mississippi to Chicago in 1937; George Starling, who left Florida for Harlem in 1945; and Robert Foster, who left Louisiana in 1953 to practice medicine, and eventually became the personal physician of Ray Charles. Each of these stories is highly moving and completely fascinating, and Wilkerson – who has previously received a Pulitzer Prize for journalism – perfectly balances her overarching story as she moves between each persons life. What she actually did was to almost make this a suspense story. Although each of her protagonists took different routes for different reasons and – most importantly – at different periods in time, we get a window into Ida Mae’s journey, then George, then Robert, then perhaps a brief narrative from the author where her voice steps in and we gain a little perspective on something we’ve just read, or a brief story of some other man or woman and the paths they chose. What’s really interesting is that Wilkerson was able to find three people so very different in their origins and eventual life stories, but the barriers and obstacles they faced were remarkably of the same cloth. Ida Mae and her husband barely afforded four tickets to leave the farm where they were sharecroppers; George was basically fleeing Florida for his life, on a train bound for New York, after taking part in an effort to get citrus grove owners to pay the workers a few more cents per box; and then we have Robert, who drove himself in his Buick Roadmaster from Louisiana to California, leaving behind a chance at a rather comfortable life, to be honest, but one that was nevertheless mired in its own kind of southern caste system, and he simply wanted the best life – period – for himself and his family, not the best life to be found in the Jim Crow south. Wilkerson clearly spent considerable time with these three people, and the care and heart she devoted to telling their stories exemplifies the entire idea of this Great Migration. It’s a fantastic book, rich in detail, history, and emotion, and I think everyone who reads this book will love it.