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Harlan’s crossroads, KY was located at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains. People there had their own way of life and except for a few of the elites, they were a close-knit bunch. While Orbie was afraid of ‘colored’ kids in Detroit, he came to realize the blacks in Harlan’s Crossroads were much different and his Granny was close friends with Alma, who reminded Orbie of Aunt Jemima. He grew close to his Granny almost immediately, but it took some getting used to his eccentric Granpaw.
The dialog is so well done. I’ve read many where the words of hillbillies or backwoods people were so mutilated, you couldn’t even understand them. That is not the case here. The author also did well staying true to the mind of a nine-year-old boy. The story is his first person account. It’s Orbie’s coming-of-age story with some mystery and justice mixed in. That said, it is not a book for children’s reading. There are language and some situations that would not suit a younger reading level. Freddie Owen skillfully created many wonderful and true-to-life characters in his debut historical fiction novel. Rating: 4 out of 5.
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Victor is a manager at a steel plant in Detroit which appears to be a subsidiary of Ford Motor Company. He told the family he has some time off and he and Ruby are going to travel down to Florida while Orbie stays with Ruby’s parents in Kentucky.
If you have a problem with strong language and “on-point” dialogue of the era, trust me, you aren’t going to enjoy the story. Think along the lines of the book, “The Help,” and you know what I’m referring to.
The dialogue is dead on for the time frame. It is brilliantly executed.
As stated, Orbie is dropped off at Grandpa and Granny’s house. The only child he’s able to befriend is a local colored boy named, Willis and his donkey, Chester. Orbie is extremely prejudiced since his encounter with several of the black boys back in Detroit and his step-dad Victor has no regard for them. He is corrected on more than one occasion by his grandma that, “They folks just like us. Only difference is their skin color.”
As the story progresses he does begin appreciating the coloreds and seeing racism from a new set of eyes. That doesn’t mean he fully embraces them, but he becomes much more tolerable and accepting especially after Willis is attacked by five of the local white boys.
As for the plot, I’m not sure about that. I found myself asking myself through the majority of the story, what’s the point? Where is this headed and why do we care? I wasn’t able to answer any of those questions.
Is this supposed to be about racism? Is a commentary on American culture in the 50’s? Or is it a coming of age story? I have no idea. At times it came across as a modern version of “Huckleberry Finn”, but even Huck and Jim knew where they were going.
The ending of the story was more mystical then resolved. Still trying to figure out exactly what happened.
I’m not hooked enough to read the second book
Here's what really moved me: I have had a fear of tornadoes ever since I was about 5. In my central MA community, there had been an F5 in 1953,two years before I was born. By the time I went off to elementary school, we were still doing tornado drills in the hallways of the school building. (Air raid drills, too, but who can tell them apart when you're 5?) It took me many, many viewings of "The Wizard of Oz" and "Twister" to desensitized myself from the gut-wrenching fear of tornadoes. Then, of course, last year in Springfield, MA and the recent multiple strikes in Oklahoma have me a little nerves up again.
When I got to the last section of this book and Orbie and Willis started to see green clouds in the sky, I thought, "uh, oh!" I knew there would be a dreaded tornado. Now, the book was already a page-turner, with a great story line, believable characters and a setting that made you hear the wind and smell the cows, But the description of the developing tornado had me on the edge of my seat. It was so well done- no sudden boom and the house is gone. It built up in pressure so well that I could feel my ears pop. I have never read a description of a story's climax done so well paced and had it make me feel like I was right there. I would highly recommend this book for a quick summer read - but go inside if you hear thunder!
There was something very intriguing about how the author read this story and brought it to life that I just couldn’t ignore. I listened to all the readings and pored over everything about the book. I just love coming-of-age stories and this one in particular caught my attention for so many reasons.
First, I loved the author’s writing style and how he wrote the story from the boy’s (Orbie’s) POV and how funny that little boy was. Hilarious. He did remind me of Huck Finn or Scout, in To Kill a Mockingbird. Orbie’s voice really led me into this story and drove the narrative nicely from beginning to end.
I also liked the cast of interesting characters that rang so true to life, especially Granpaw and Victor. You just knew there’d be trouble between those two, but there was plenty of conflict and memorable moments among all these amazing characters.
I tried reading this book nonstop but I was unable to (had my own drama) so I kept coming back to it and reading it on my Kindle in bits and pieces so it took me a while to finish, but I just had to see how it would end. Luckily, it ended on a poetic note. I love when stories end that way, with a profound whisper, somewhat reminiscent of Flannery O’Connor’s endings.
A great read for me. Freddie Owens is definitely an author to watch. I look forward to his next book.