Paul H. Yarbrough once again perfectly and vividly captures the voice of a land and a people in his second novel, also set in Mississippi. This tale is not only about one boy’s memorable year, but also examines the larger meaning of growing up Southern and American during a simpler era.
Ten-year-old Charlie McCoy and his friends are curious about the fire up at the abandoned house on the outskirts of town. Since the grown-ups aren’t saying much, and anything really interesting spoken in shushed tones, the boys may need to do a little digging on their own. Meanwhile, they avoid the specter of school looming in their immediate futures with playing ball, fishing, and discussing which business to start:junk collecting or selling rabbit tobacco.
Even more than the mysterious fire, Charlie is intrigued by Jackie Robinson, the first black baseball player in the major leagues. And by the new magazine his older brother keeps talking about, and what their mother would tell that Hugh Hefner if she weren’t such a lady.
While Charlie’s hometown of Jackson is slowly changing around him, with Eisenhower’s highway coming through to transform the face of the land, Charlie and his people hold on tight to their agrarian roots.
And at the end of the day, his older sister Katy Jean is always there with a smile to listen to his ideas and opinions, even if she doesn’t say a lot and mostly speaks in whispers.