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about the book
There was another South in the 1960s, one far removed from the marches and bombings and turmoil in the streets that were broadcast on the evening news. It was a place of inner turmoil, where ordinary people struggled to right themselves on a social landscape that was dramatically shifting beneath their feet. This is the world of Valerie Fraser Luesse’s stunning debut, Missing Isaac.
It is 1965 when black field hand Isaac Reynolds goes missing from the tiny, unassuming town of Glory, Alabama. The townspeople’s reactions range from concern to indifference, but one boy will stop at nothing to find out what happened to his unlikely friend. White, wealthy, and fatherless, young Pete McLean has nothing to gain and everything to lose in his relentless search for Isaac. In the process, he will discover much more than he bargained for.
Before it’s all over, Pete–and the people he loves most–will have to blur the hard lines of race, class, and religion. And what they discover about themselves may change some of them forever.
Southern rural community culture plays an essential role in Missing Isaac, the setting is more than a simple canvas for this story to be painted on. It is the South and the collective pride and prejudices of her people that form the foundation and framework of this immersive experience.
I like Pete McLean. He is just a nice young man and I’m sure his mama is over the moon proud of him. Isaac Reynolds might be employed by the McLean family but Pete is unconcerned by age, social class, and skin color. As far as Pete is concerned, Isaac is simply his father’s friend and now his friend, too. The grief and desperation Pete must have experienced when Isaac goes missing tugs at my heartstrings.
If the culture of our setting is the foundation and framework, Isaac’s disappearance is the hallway that flows right down the middle of the story. Readers don’t necessarily spend a lot of time in the hallway but it’s a constant guiding factor. Picture, if you will, many doors on either side of this hall, these rooms are filled with people but few of them leave their own room and fewer still give a care about the simple hallway.
Except for Pete. He wants to experience it all and take those he cares about along with him. Pete encounters resistance yet inspires those around him to see with their hearts instead of their eyes, listen to the Spirit instead of the crowds. I cried no less than three times during this book yet there were also moments bursting with joy, full of hope, and some light-hearted mischief as well. I highly recommend this story and look forward to future works of fiction from this author!
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher and was under no obligation to post a review. The opinions expressed are my own.
about the author
Valerie Fraser Luesse is an award-winning magazine writer best known for her feature stories and essays in Southern Living, where she is currently a senior travel editor. Her work has been anthologized in the audio collection Southern Voices and in A Glimpse of Heaven, an essay collection featuring works by C. S. Lewis, Randy Alcorn, John Wesley, and others.
As a freelance writer and editor, she was the lead writer for Southern Living 50 Years: A Celebration of People, Places, and Culture. Specializing in stories about unique pockets of Southern culture, Luesse has published major pieces on the Gulf Coast, the Mississippi Delta, Louisiana’s Acadian Prairie, and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Her editorial section on Hurricane Katrina recovery in Mississippi and Louisiana won the 2009 Writer of the Year award from the Southeast Tourism Society.
Luesse earned her bachelor’s degree in English at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, and her master’s degree in English at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She grew up in Harpersville, Alabama, a rural community in Shelby County, and now lives in Birmingham.
“…you think there’s just one world we all live in, but there’s not. There’s a bunch of ’em.
…the only people that don’t seem to know that are the ones that come from yours.”
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