𝗛𝗮𝗽𝗽𝘆 𝗽𝘂𝗯𝗹𝗶𝗰𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗱𝗮𝘆 𝘁𝗼 𝙉𝙤𝙩𝙝𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙈𝙤𝙧𝙚 𝘿𝙖𝙣𝙜𝙚𝙧𝙤𝙪𝙨 𝗯𝘆 𝗔𝗹𝗹𝗲𝗻 𝗘𝘀𝗸𝗲𝗻!
In 1976, freshman Boady Sanden’s widowed, depressed, and overwhelmed mother sends him to St. Ignacius high school, a private Catholic school, after getting into trouble with the wrong crowd. He is friendless and awkward, drawing band logos in a notebook to avoid the attention of the popular boys who enjoy tormenting him. With only his dog and his next-door neighbor, Hoke, as company, Boady dreams of leaving Jessup, Missouri behind and is only waiting until he turns sixteen.
That same year, Lida Poe, an African American bookkeeper at Ryke Manufacturing disappears, and town gossip says she left with $100,000 of embezzled funds. Ryke’s home office sends Charles Egin to manage the plant and clean up the operations. Charles, his wife, and his son, Thomas, Boady’s age, move across the street from Boady on rural Frog Hollow Road.
Boady’s been so busy keeping his head down, he’s noticed little about the tensions in town, but when the black family moves across the street, he is drawn into the racial battlefield of the community and confronted with the prejudices both his classmates and he himself hold. With a new awareness of the secrets people hold, he sees new dimensions in Hoke, Wally Schenicker, his boss at the drywall company down the road, and even his mother.
As Boady and Thomas hone onto the mystery behind Lida Poe’s disappearance, Boady is forced to choose loyalties—and the wrong decision may be deadly for him, his friends, and his family.
𝙉𝙤𝙩𝙝𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙈𝙤𝙧𝙚 𝘿𝙖𝙣𝙜𝙚𝙧𝙤𝙪𝙨 deftly combines mystery and bildungsroman, charting Boady’s growing compassion, both for others and himself and challenging assumptions about race, personality, and motivation. While I found this a compelling read, I was incensed by the injustice Boady both uncovered and experienced. The rural mid-1970s Missouri setting focuses the mystery and allows Esken to bring race to the forefront, with discrimination more overt and the Civil Rights Legislation still just over a decade old. At the same time, the themes are highly relevant to today’s society.
For me, the dialogue, though, was a bit of a challenge. I trust that the author reliably represented the local dialect, but it was slightly awkward. I also wish that some of the minor characters such as Mrs. Elgin and Diana, one of Boady’s classmates, had been given more development. However, this is definitely a worthwhile book for readers who enjoy coming of age stories, literary mysteries, or novels about social issues.
𝑻𝒉𝒂𝒏𝒌 𝒚𝒐𝒖 𝒕𝒐 𝑵𝒆𝒕𝑮𝒂𝒍𝒍𝒆𝒚 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝑴𝒖𝒍𝒉𝒐𝒍𝒍𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝑩𝒐𝒐𝒌𝒔 𝒇𝒐𝒓 𝒑𝒓𝒐𝒗𝒊𝒅𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒂𝒏 𝒂𝒅𝒗𝒂𝒏𝒄𝒆 𝒓𝒆𝒂𝒅𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒄𝒐𝒑𝒚 𝒊𝒏 𝒆𝒙𝒄𝒉𝒂𝒏𝒈𝒆 𝒇𝒐𝒓 𝒂𝒏 𝒉𝒐𝒏𝒆𝒔𝒕 𝒓𝒆𝒗𝒊𝒆𝒘.