BIG WORDS by Beth Bland Engel


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It's 1965 in Hines City, Ceorgia. Young black cynosure Will Brown--captain of the football team, president of the student council--is instantaneously accused of murdering the local loose woman, for whom he'd been doing some gardening; and flees (""I lost my head. . . I didn't stop to think""). Twelve-year-old Sandy Cason finds him hiding in her older, soldier-brother's tree house (the two boys had been friends). And, for the rest of the story, Sandy's efforts to help Will (food, medicine, messages) are played out against domestic cross-currents and the bigoted locals' search. (There's also--for authenticity?--a lot of sexual banter.) Sandy's mother, who clings to shreds of Southern gentility, is ineffectualness incarnate. Her father, who'll speak up for blacks, won't take action against a Klan outrage. In that sense, generational attitudes are illustrated--giving the book some validity as the portrait of an era. But there is no substance to the supposedly growing affection between Sandy and Will, and nothing but contrivance to the resolution of the murder case (in another attempted murder) directly under the tree house. Considerably more one-dimensional, all told, than Engel's race-problem-drama first, Ride the Pine Sapling.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1982
Publisher: Lodestar/Dutton