Even though I was born and raised in the Midwest, I've lived in the South for 18 years so I think I have the right to call myself a Southerner. I have survived hurricanes, I grow gardenias and jasmine in my yard, and I looooove my Southern Fiction. A perfect example of this genre is anything written by Connie May Fowler, where you will find the essence of the South on every page.
Now in my mind, there are two types of South. There are the debutantes and the old money and mint juleps and parties that use crystal goblets, and then there is the real South, the street-level South, with lots of cussin', shootin', drinkin', with plenty of gators and mosquitoes and swamp. I knew, when I met Lou Dischler at SIBA, and saw that little mischievous gleam in his eyes, that he was going to give us some of that real stuff, and it was going to be fun.
Synopsis: It is 1962, and Charlie Boone is living with his grandparents and little brother Jute in Louisiana. Charlie is a real piece of work...his inquisitive mind and his boyness is always getting him into trouble, and seems to have "gotten it honest" from his jailbird father and runaway mother. When Charlie's uncle, fresh out of prison, arrives into town with an ex-con girlfriend, a stolen Buick, and plans to make it big (whether it be selling pornographic bibles or robbing a bank), things really start to happen for Charlie and his small town of Red Church. Throw in a Cuban Missile Crisis, and you've got the makings of one helluva coming-of-age story.
My thoughts: I could call this book alot of things (hilarious, outrageous, and even a little bit precious), but the bottom line is that it is a nostalgic, comedic southern yarn. When you finish it (all 219 pages of it) in a day or less, you will set it down with a goofy grin on your face. It isn't hard to imagine a kid who thinks it is a great idea to bash a bullet with a rock to see what happens (Lou mentioned this part of the story came from his actual experience!). Or a kid who sneaks into the mayor's office to hide from the feared missiles, and experiments with the Mayor's whiskey and plays strip-poker with the cute twins from his class. This is what Southern Fiction is all about. It doesn't take itself too seriously, but there is enough shootin' and killin' and cussin' to give it a dose of realism. Even when there starts to be a body count (be it man or horse) I still just shook my head from the insanity and ridiculousness of it all.
The book is narrated primarily by Charlie, and occasionally by his Uncle Dan and Dan's girlfriend Lona. Dischler nailed the voice of a precocious nine year old to a tee...methinks he probably still has a little bit of nine-year-old in him! I did think that Dan's and Lona's voices interrupted the flow of the novel just a tad bit, even though their input is necessary to get the whole story. That still did not lessen the pure enjoyment of this book, which I would highly recommend.
4 out of 5 stars