Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Juniper Road

... by Hal Duvall.

The story takes place in South Carolina during the Depression. Woodrow Wilson Jones, becomes a young man in just a matter of a few pages, as he discovers hard work and poverty in the rural south. His father has been sent to a sanatorium leaving him in charge of the family. As the story begins, Wilson is trying to get a job with a work crew clearing property for a future state park, only to realize that at 14, he is too young. The recruiter suggests he come back in a couple of days, once he's matured a bit. So, on Monday, four years older, he secures the job, proving to be a diligent worker. Once this job ends, Wilson lands a job in the small town's hardware store as an afternoon clerk. He falls in love with a local girl, Betsy, befriends the recruiter, Tom Stone - soon to be a local lawyer, and comes to the defense of a "colored" friend and neighbor, whose father has been falsely arrested on a charge of arson. Wilson, determined to help clear his friend's father of all charges, seeks help and comes to their aid. Wilson, as most young men of his stature, joins the army in search of a future more meaningful than the life he foresaw by staying behind in a small, country town overcome with poverty and unemployment. But Hal, we've got to know what happens to Wilson!

The story is told with authenticity, reflecting the devastating times of the 30's due to poverty, segregation, and unemployment. It portrays the warmth of a small community yet reveals the harsh realities of racial segregation and poverty. The story takes me back to Cheraw, SC and stirs a desire to dig into the past, learning more about that "prettiest little town in Dixie."

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Three Cups Of Tea

... by Greg Mortenson.

One of the books I read awhile ago was recently reintroduced at the SCASL when I discovered that it has been rewritten as a picture book and a young reader novel. The two new versions, Listen to the Wind and Three Cups of Tea, share this wonderful story on one man's dream to improve education. Greg Mortenson is mountain climbing in the Himalayas and gets lost. He ends up in the village of Korphe in Pakistan, where the villagers take care of him and share their hospitality and wisdom over cups of tea. When he learns that the village has no school and the children practice their lessons outside using sticks to write with, he decides to build a school. The story follows his experiences through Pakistan and Afghanistan as he struggles to gain the support and money to build schools. With the current relations in Pakistan and Afghanistan, this book offers a different perspective of the culture and traditions in these countries and shows how strong determination for humanitarian efforts can make worldly differences. A lesson all ages can benefit from.

This is a thought provoking and complex novel, mixing the themes of art, family, values, and death. It alternates between the voices of Pru, a young girl whose pictures are taken by a family friend, and Kate, a young woman teaching at a University. The author does a great job with this story but forces the reader to determine their own opinion as to what is "art" and to distinguish the difference between innocence and wrong. Each girl's character is developed so that we hear their thoughts and understand how they feel. This book elicited one of the most passionate book discussions that our book club has experienced in quite a while.