Orbie: an outspoken, angry nine-year-old. He knew there would be problems coming the moment his widowed momma, Ruby, remarried Victor, but he was just a kid; no one asked his opinion. When Victor got mad, Orbie described his eyes as “slimy red worms turning over … twisting around on sharp glass, cutting themselves in there and getting mean.” On their trip from Detroit to Florida in the late 1950’s, it was Victor who insisted Orbie would stay with his maternal grandparents in Kentucky. Victor, his mom, and his five-year-old sister, Missy, continued on to Florida where Victor had a job opportunity waiting.
Harlan’s crossroads, KY was located at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains. People there had their own way of life and except for a few of the elites, they were a close-knit bunch. While Orbie was afraid of ‘colored’ kids in Detroit, he came to realize the blacks in Harlan’s Crossroads were much different and his Granny was close friends with Alma, who reminded Orbie of Aunt Jemima. He grew close to his Granny almost immediately, but it took some getting used to his eccentric Granpaw.
The dialog is so well done. I’ve read many where the words of hillbillies or backwoods people were so mutilated, you couldn’t even understand them. That is not the case here. The author also did well staying true to the mind of a nine-year-old boy. The story is his first person account. It’s Orbie’s coming-of-age story with some mystery and justice mixed in. That said, it is not a book for children’s reading. There are language and some situations that would not suit a younger reading level. Freddie Owen skillfully created many wonderful and true-to-life characters in his debut historical fiction novel. Rating: 4 out of 5.