Who out there knows Erin Haire, Manager of the Hub City Bookshop? I met her at SIBA last year and she is one of those people you will never forget. She is vivacious and funny, and you can be sure that if you are within ten feet of her, you are going to have fun. (And if you ever get locked in a bathroom, all you need is a hairpin and some tape and Erin McGyver to get you out.)
Associated with the bookstore is Hub City Press, who is "a non-profit independent press that publishes well-crafted, high-quality works by new and established authors, with an emphasis on the Southern experience." They were the ones to publish "My Only Sunshine" by Lou Dischler, for example.
Long story long, Erin sent me a copy of "Mercy Creek" by Matt Matthews (published by Hub City) for review, knowing I love me a Southern yarn. It came with the added perk that it won the South Carolina First Novel Prize. Say no more Erin.
Synopsis: Sixteen-year old Isaac is more than a little depressed at the idea of spending his summer working at Chum's Hardware while all of his friends, and particularly his girlfriend, scatter to more exciting adventures. Adding to his malaise is the fact that his mother recently passed, and he is having trouble connecting with his father. Some things are just left unsaid these days.
When a rash of break-ins occur in town, without anything stolen but with heavy damage, Isaac takes on the case to add a little thrill to his summer. It doesn't hurt that a $5,000 reward is on the line for whoever aids in the conviction of the responsible party. But when Isaac starts digging, he uncovers a sinister history in his hometown that involves just about every respectable elder, and learns a lesson or two about bigotry and hate and secrets that everyone would rather stay hidden.
My thoughts: Although this book started out a bit slow for me, it developed into a sobering but charming story about race relations in the South. It had all the elements you need for a touching plot...quirky, fussy townspeople, a mystery, young love, and healing from the loss of a loved one. The characters were unique and memorable, and leading the pack was a noble and likable 16-year-old who has the drive to do the right thing.
The mystery that inspires Isaac is not a real difficult one to figure out, and I initially was frustrated by this. Maybe I read too many crime thrillers, but my first thought was "it shouldn't be THAT easy!". But after some time to ponder, I wondered if maybe that wasn't really the point of the thing. It was more about coming-of-age, and about how hatred can grow over the years like a cancer, and how important it is to understand where we've been and where we're going when it comes to accepting all races as equals.
I'm not sure how this book will be marketed to the general public. Adult fiction? Young adult fiction? It could go either way. This is a book I'd let my 13-year-old daughter read. It is free of anything graphically inappropriate and has some great messages. Likewise, I was entertained as an adult.
Thanks again to Erin for the opportunity to read another little slice of the South! (See you at SIBA in Charleston!)
3.5 out of 5 stars