Saturday, 23 July 2016

Review: The Last Road Home by Danny Johnson

From Pushcart Prize nominee Danny Johnson comes a powerful, lyrical debut novel that explores race relations, first love, and coming-of-age in North Carolina in the 1950s and '60s.

At eight years old, Raeford "Junebug" Hurley has known more than his share of hard lessons. After the sudden death of his parents, he goes to live with his grandparents on a farm surrounded by tobacco fields and lonesome woods. There he meets Fancy Stroud and her twin brother, Lightning, the children of black sharecroppers on a neighboring farm. As years pass, the friendship between Junebug and bright, compassionate Fancy takes on a deeper intensity. Junebug, aware of all the ways in which he and Fancy are more alike than different, habitually bucks against the casual bigotry that surrounds them--dangerous in a community ruled by the Klan.

On the brink of adulthood, Junebug is drawn into a moneymaking scheme that goes awry--and leaves him with a dark secret he must keep from those he loves. And as Fancy, tired of saying yes'um and living scared, tries to find her place in the world, Junebug embarks on a journey that will take him through loss and war toward a hard-won understanding.

At once tender and unflinching, The Last Road Home delves deep into the gritty, violent realities of the South's turbulent past, yet evokes the universal hunger for belonging.

Paperback, 304 pages
Expected publication: July 26th 2016 by Kensington

Terri's Thoughts

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.  The expected publication date is July 26th, 2016.

I tend to shy away from coming of age stories as a lot of them tend to be slow moving and dull.  Something convinced me to give this one a chance and I am sure glad I did.  I was drawn in from the beginning and I am still thinking about it hours after I have read the last sentence.

As someone who writes a lot of reviews, I am almost hesitant to try to capture my thoughts on this story.  What if I can't do it justice?  I know I don't have the right words to do so.  This story deals with issues prevalent in the 50's & 60's with racial relations and an unpopular war.  I can't help but notice that after all this time these are still issues within our society.  It is sad but I am here to talk about this book.

Those seeking happy go lucky should look elsewhere as these pages are filled with conflict, tragedy and hard lessons.  The things that Junebug has to deal with in his young life is overwhelming.  The loss of his parents, the loss of other loved ones and the fact that he loves someone that is not accepted within his society.  I was glued to the pages to find out what would happen next.

You also have the characters that easily earn your hatred.  From Lightning, to Mr Wilson, to the cast of characters that don the white sheet over their bodies.  It is easy to see how Junebug did not necessarily know how to make the best choices.  Then there are the ones you are rooting for such as Fancy and Junebug.  You can't help but wish the world was a different place so that they could conquer it together.

I found that this story split nicely into to separate parts.  The story before the war and then the rest.  This kept the pace interesting.  The enjoyed the war aspect and all the heart wrenching and disgusting details.  For me it added another layer of believability.  It really was a volatile time.

I wish that I could discuss the ending however I do not want to include any spoilers in my review.  I could dedicate a whole paragraph/page to my thoughts on it.  All I will say is that I feel it was an appropriate and consistent ending for the story.

A great read!

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