Lucas and Dolly Frazier are fraternal twins who live with their grandmother, Gram M., over her Five-and-Dime store in the Depression-era South. Both children are special and different: special in that they each have unexplainable gifts, and different in that Lucas is white and Dolly is Black.
When Gram M. becomes ill and dies, the twins are taken to live with their relative, Emil Skinner, on his small hay farm in rural Evergreen, Alabama. Although Emil is somehow kin to their grandmother, the man is cruel, ruling over the twins, the animals, and even the tenant farmers with a Bible full of unique scripture and rigid expectations: no sugar, no color, no music, no love.
One of only a few reprieves, the twins discover a creek running behind the farm. Shrouded by the nearby woods, the water is magical and mysterious, and it provides them a secret escape from their hardships.
As Lucas and Dolly stumble through adolescence and into young adulthood, their roles on the farm and in the surrounding community shift, and Lucas spends every minute concerned for the safety and well-being of his sister. But promises made down at the creek are broken, lines are crossed, and the two fear they’ll never be able to escape the confines of that farm... or each other.
ONLY THE ROCKS THAT FLOAT is a coming-of-age tale as heartbreaking as it is exhilarating. Hughes explores the spectrum of the human condition, weaving an illuminating story steeped in magic and mystery. She examines the oppressive nature of those in power, perceived or ordained, through the lens of an era not much different from today.