Owens’s third about the Sims and Catts family of north Florida (Myra Sims, 1999, etc.) can too often seem a reworking of its two predecessors.
Clayton “Catbird” Catts, now in high school, is a problematical young narrator, seeming too perceptive and knowledgeable for his age—though he says often enough that he’s stupid and dumb and should have been more astute. Labeled dyslexic (he was in Special Education during elementary school), he recalls for us how he came to move out of his own grand but haunted house and into his aunt Candace’s smaller one. But his life really changed, he contends, when he was 11 and his father, Michael, died from cancer—and when Uncle Gabe, his father’s younger brother, came home for the funeral and then stayed. The dead Michael had worked hard, eventually became rich, and had married Myra Sims, who’d once lived next door with her abusive father. Michael fixed up an old house in the country where he and Myra raised their three children—Sim, Missy, and Clayton. Michael was the perfect father, and although Clayton loved his mother, he sensed something strange about her—his best friends said she was a vampire because she came out only at night—and the day Michael died was the worst day of Clayton’s life. Gabe, who’d come home at the request of the dying man, after a year married Myra, having loved her since childhood. The children seemed not to mind—they liked Gabe, who reminded them so much of Michael—but on the weekend before he started high school, Clayton’s grandmother absent-mindedly remarked that Clayton resembled his daddy Gabe more each day. Hurt and shocked, Clayton thus moves in with his aunt, who tells him the truth about his family. And his mother, who also tells all, helps him accept the idea that Michael was his father in every way but the biological, and that Clayton can mourn him still.
Warm and affirming, yes, though Clayton still stretches the credulity.