I’ve told you before: I love a good Southern story, no matter the genre. When I saw Joy Jordan-Lake’s novel, Blue Hole Back Home, on the shelf in the bookstore and noted Leif Enger’s blurb on the front cover, I knew it was a novel I wanted to read. (Speaking of Leif Enger, have you read Peace Like a River? If you haven’t, you should…)
Blue Hole Back Home is, as I’ve suggested, a Southern story. Fifteen year old Shelby Lenoir, “Turtle” to her friends, narrates this story set in the Appalachian ridge of North Carolina in 1979. She and her “mangy” pack of friends–consisting of her older brother Em, his best friend Jimbo, her cousin LJ and occasional pack member Bobby–find themselves in the middle of tense racial relations when they befriend a new girl from Sri Lanka. From the publisher’s description:
“Maybe, back at the Hole, we were all fools–our whole mangy pack that cuaght one summer on fire and watched our world fall out from under our feet. Fools, dangerous fools.”
The summer of 1979 was heavy not only with the humid Appalachian air, but also with the raw emotion brought on by a stranger in their midst. The new girl. The new girl with the deeply colored skin and the straight shiny ebony hair and the father who prayed on a rug facing east each morning. The new girl who changed the hearts, minds, and lives of everyone in the small, provincial mountain town, merely by accepting a ride one hot summer day to the local swimming hole.
The plot is somewhat predictable given its subject matter. It’s race relations. In the South. Meaning, of course, dim-witted, burly bigots, burning crosses and the Klan. Predictability aside, the story is refreshing and honest mainly due to Jordan-Lake’s haunting prose that speaks simultaneously of loss and nostalgia. She writes as a true Southerner, one who knows of what she writes.
Blue Hole Back Home will certainly find its place among some of my favorite Southern stories. If you’re interested in getting a taste of Turtle’s story, publisher David C. Cook has posted an excerpt here.
Wife and mother, Bible teacher and blogger, Lisa loves Jesus, coffee, dark chocolate and, of course, books. Read more of her reflections at Lisa writes….