5 Stars Out Of 5
A Mangy Pack of kids, and a hot summer.....
June 20, 2014
This is the story of a Turtle in a swimming hole. Except Turtle is a girl, and the swimming hole is The Blue Hole.
The Blue Hole was the center of Shelby Lenoir's life that summer, in 1979.
This is one of those books... like Karl Marlantes' Matterhorn... that I have a love/hate relationship with. I love it because the redemptive storytelling is just so right, and I hate it because what happens in the story is just so wrong. Be prepared to mourn if you read either book, to mourn innocence lost and pain endured and eyes opened to this strange world where beauty and beloved people and heart-beating, breathing life coexist with cruelty and emptiness and various forms of death.
Oh what a fine book this is. Strong, bold writing and a passel of teenage characters that I quickly loved for their heart, honesty, awkwardness, and uncertainties. I think stories about teenagers have a great advantage- kids just are what they are. Maybe it's because they're allowed to openly try to find themselves, maybe it's because they have less practice building false selves.
They were just kids, a Mangy Pack at that, spending the long Carolina days doing hard work at their Big Dog Lawn and Garden company. They sweated under the Appalachian sun, serenaded by eight-tracks of Marvin Gaye and Diana Ross, then they headed for the Blue Hole.
There was Turtle, who often didn't feel like a girl and who had all boys for friends. Boys like her brother Emerson, who hid John Donne and Julian of Norwich in his Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. Boy's like James Beauregard Riggs, whose grin and creative use of language lit up the whole Ridge. Boys like her cousin L.J who was convinced that his superior intelligence precluded his actually belonging to his own parents. Even boys like Bobby Welper, with a home life that made him the focus of prayer lists and gossips, a boy will would drift with whichever tide is strongest.
And then there's Sanna. The new girl, who will make them all ask questions that never before entered their minds, and who will turn their most familiar places and faces into something completely different from what they'd ever seen before. Sanna, with the brown skin and black eyes and tentative English, whose hands form a map to show where she came from, Sri Lanka.
So read this book, and laugh at the start, at the humor and fun and games that a Mangy Pack of kids can dream up, and learn in the middle, as they begin to accept Sanna, and hurt at the end when you find yourself saying "No, No, No...."
Because the good is so good and the bad is so bad and like the opening pages tell us, "My home is a beautiful place, a terribly beautiful place, that gives birth to traitors and cowards and heroes, sometimes all in one skin. And I never say why- because I don't know- I long like I do to go back."