This is a nostalgic book that follows the coming of age of Jason Lee, a white boy in the South during the 1980s. Lee befriends a black boy, Samson, much to the disgust of the racist town. At the same time, Jason Lee is also trying to uncover the truth about his father, JL, who served (and died) in Vietnam and was a fighter for equal rights prior to that. Jason also experiences his mother’s nervous breakdown and learns to help his Uncle Mooks, who has been wounded—physically and mentally/emotionally—by serving in Vietnam.
The book reminds me of the classics about the South—To Kill a Mockingbird, for example. It has the whole-heartedness of a book that can be used in school classrooms, and it confronts important issues and themes. The voice of Jason Lee, who narrates the book, is simple and genuine, making it an easy read despite the subject matter. For me, the one shortcoming was the conflict. While most books are heavily plot driven, and I’m complaining about the language, this book was the opposite. The language was rich, but the conflict didn’t take hold right away—aside from the racism that was prevalent from the beginning, the conflict(s) didn’t emerge until later. Still, when the conflict does take hold, you’ll want to keep reading until you finish.
Overall, I recommend this read. It’s an award-winning book. It was not a waste of time, and the characters and personality of the setting were poignant at times, with a wholesome plot and setting to support a coming-of-age tale.