Kristine F. Anderson
Mercer University Press, 2020 (2020)
Reviewed by Barbara Lingens
rowing up with Paw Paw and Granny has taught fifteen-year-old Lucas that many things in life are not easy. Especially when he has to constantly watch Uncle Robert (a Down's Syndrome patient almost twice as old), and also has to deal with Robert's truly mean half-brother, Alvin Earl.
ristine Anderson has set us on a small farm in Georgia, just after the end of World War II. Lucas' family has more than many, but life is still hard. Paw Paw is dying but keeps on working, both because of pride and because there is no other help. Most of the farm workers are black and not treated well in that area. Little George and Cotton are special friends of Lucas. They share cigarettes with him, remind him of Robert's loyalty and goodness, and talk about taking a job up north.
o one likes Alvin Earl, who just seems to live to cause everyone grief and who drinks and gambles himself into trouble. He bullies Lucas and Robert, disrespects Paw Paw and Granny and is not afraid to air his opinions about the blacks. The atmosphere becomes more and more tense until, on one hot afternoon, a rifle shot changes everything.
he setting is as much a character in this story as the people. The summer heat is oppressive. There is no air-conditioning, no refrigeration, no relief. The tractor constantly needs fixing, and the neighbors are spread far apart and have their own problems. Everyone knows Lucas as a steady resourceful young man, but it is amazing that he can find the strength and hope within himself to carry on after all is changed.
he author has given us a detailed view of that time, depicting not only the racial prejudice, but also the town's fear of, and prejudice against, Robert because of his developmental issues. The pacing to the climax is ever so slow and taut, which makes the story afterward seem a bit rushed. The title of the book is not only apt but thought-provoking.
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