A robust, deftly written coming-of-age Southern drama that combines American history and racial unrest.
In 1962, the year she graduated from Calvert Elementary in conservative Wicomico Corners, smart, plucky, 12-year-old Agnes “Haddie” Bashford, the daughter of an artist and a naval base engineer, becomes disenchanted with life at school and with spending spare time bussing tables at church suppers. Buried under “the crushing boredom and the claustrophobia of living in a place where everybody knew you,” Haddie yearns to escape the patriotic, traditional, God-fearing people of Wicomico Corners—folk who pride themselves on clearly propagating the truth in every instance (the “deed so” of the title). But that righteous stance becomes muddled when a series of violent events shakes the town’s foundation. Haddie witnesses the violent shooting death of a black teenager during a tense scuffle and, soon after, a county court case hinges on her testimony and the verdict of an all-white jury. The situation is complicated by the external pressures of picketers, aspiring politicians and the intrinsic prejudices of Wicomico’s citizens. Adding to the civil unrest in town are several occurrences of arson and Haddie fears she’s responsible for a fire that takes the lives of two autistic children. On the romantic front, Haddie realizes her blossoming love for Gideon Albright, a boy who rushed off to Vietnam only to return shell-shocked and traumatized. Russell (A Pointed Death, 2010), a mystery writer, stuffs the narrative with an exhaustive procession of dramatic scenes and character developments, but consistently maintains an authentic sense of time and place. Haddie is a joy to read, years ahead of her age and maturing quickly both in her attraction to ill-fated Gideon, her education on race and crime and in becoming a woman eager to taste the wonders of the world outside of Wicomico’s bubble.
A long, provocative work of historical fiction anchored by a young, winning protagonist.