Thursday, January 21, 2010

Safe from the Neighbors-Steve Yarbrough

Safe from the Neighbors
Steve Yarbrough
Knopf, Jan 26 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780307271709

In Loring, Mississippi Luke May teaches history at the local high school. His marriage is on the rocks as he and his wife college Freshman English Professor and poet Jennifer share no interests especially since their daughters now attends the U of Mississippi.

Maggie Sorrentino comes home to Loring to teach French. She left town after her father killed her mother in what was officially ruled self defense. The killing occurred the night before James Meredith entered the University of Mississippi; that same evening Maggie’s father and Luke’s dad were part of the White Citizens Council that drove to Oxford to prevent Meredith from attending class. Luke and Maggie begin an affair and he tries to uncover what happened on that fatal night over four decades ago.

The key to this strong look at the impact of historical racism and the Civil Rights movement on subsequent generations is that Steve Yarbrough does not condemn anyone; even those who spurred by hatred tried to prevent Meredith from attending the U of Mississippi. Instead he presents his cast in 1962 and forty years later as people with faults and flaws. Readers will enjoy the amateur historian’s efforts to learn the truth from a silent generation in which even his father who was there refuses to say anything while those he teaches looks at the Meredith event as ancient history.

Harriet Klausner

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