Monday, March 7, 2011

Review: Deed So by Katharine A. Russell

Deed So
Author: Katharine A. Russell
Publication: CreateSpace (November 18, 2010)

Description: It is 1962, and Agnes Hayden Bashford, Haddie, a brainy Southern teen from a tradition-bound family, dreams of breaking free from suffocating expectations placed on girls and from Wicomico Corners. She vows to escape to the exhilarating world beyond its narrow borders, like her handsome, older friend Gideon Albright who is going to Vietnam. A series of shocking incidents brings the outside world crashing down on her peaceful village, exposing long-buried family secrets and setting Haddie on a collision course with an unstable firebrand who will have to silence her to protect his identity. Haddie witnesses the fatal shooting of a black teen by a white down-on-his-luck farmer trying to protect his retarded son. The resulting murder trial attracts outside agitators and political aspirants, and pits townspeople against each other. Excited about being a witness in the trial, Haddie sees her moment of notoriety dissolve into frustration and discomfort and tragedy claim the people around her. The racially-charged case exposes civic fault lines and secrets within Haddie's own family, shattering her comfortable home life, and unleashes an arsonist who terrorizes the community by night. In Deed So, a young girl and an entire town lose their innocence in the last year of innocence, the year before the Kennedy assassination, the civil rights struggle, feminist activism and the Vietnam War changed America forever.

My Thoughts: This was a dense historical fiction novel that reminded me of To Kill a Mockingbird in which we see adult, social matters through the eyes of a child. 

Haddie is 12-going-on-13 this summer in rural Maryland. Change is coming to the world and her world is altered immeasurably. Tensions are growing between blacks and whites. In this case a hard working black man buys a combine and makes some of his less hard-working white neighbors jealous. A fight between a mentally and physically handicapped young man who happens to be the jealous white farmer's son and some trouble-making black teens results in the white farmer killing the young black man. Haddie witnessed the whole fight and finds herself a witness at the trial. The trial has brought in outside demonstrators from Washington, DC.

The trial polarizes the town and even Haddie's family. Her father and uncle have differing opinions about what should happen. Meanwhile, there is an arsonist setting fires around the area. The locals want to blame the outsiders. One fire causes the death of two autistic children. Haddie is afraid that she is to blame. She and a friend have their stash of cigarettes and alcohol and a Lucky Strike lighter stashed nearby. She is afraid that the young boy had found them and started the house on fire. 

Still another plot thread deals with a young man named Gideon who is a friend of hers. They get together and play chess. Haddie has a king-sized crush on him even though he has a girlfriend. Gideon goes to Vietnam but comes back wounded, depressed and disillusioned. 

So many things are happening and Haddie alternates between being a young, protected child and a young woman. She and her girlfriends - including Sarah Jane whose parents are going through a divorce and Elise who is a young romantic - give a great view into a time in US history of great change. The time period of the novel was very well-drawn. Since that is the time I was growing up, I felt a certain nostalgia. 

The language was rich and the vocabulary was too. I do wonder how much this book will connect with today's young adults. The coming-of-age is universal but the way she comes of age may be quite alien to today's young adults. Also, since it is being told in retrospect by the narrator as an adult, there is a further distancing from the young adult experience.

I enjoyed the look back, the descriptions, and the history and recommend this book for thoughtful young adult readers who enjoy historical fiction.

Favorite Quote:
I turned toward her as she came to the center of the room, her PJs bathed in a halo from the overhead light. The beaded eyes of the poodles twinkled. She looked like a cross between Peter Pan's Wendy and a Creamsicle with measles.  I tried to fight it, but my lips spread into a wide grin. "I think, if you plan to get hitched, Elise, you'd better invest in some different sleepwear."

I was faster but I tripped on Sarah Jane's notebook. Elise caught me across the shoulders with her pillow.

1 comment:

  1. I am reviewing this book for the Pump Up Your Book Tour. I am putting a link in my review to your review! I am following you now!


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