PERSONAL VERDICT by Ralph Langer

PERSONAL VERDICT

A Civil Rights Novel
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A college student gets caught up in the civil rights movement in Langer’s debut novel.

University of Michigan journalism student Jeff Martindale follows the civil rights movement, but isn’t personally involved until he meets the Reverend Isiah Booker at a party. Isiah’s magnetic personality captivates Jeff—who still notices fellow student reporter Susan Adams—and the two strike up a friendship. While the two men are hardly alike—Jeff went from his small northern Michigan town to college; Isiah is 10 years older, African-American and a former Temple University football player—they forge a connection through fly-fishing and shared idealism. Jeff’s relationship with Susan takes a bit longer to develop, but eventually they manage to fit in dating along with class, the university newspaper and volunteering at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Isiah continues to challenge Jeff’s assumptions and expand his worldview, introducing him to a young adherent of black separatism and taking him into the heart of Detroit’s ghetto, and he encourages Susan and Jeff to take part in a spring-break trip to integrate Tennessee lunch counters. (While no specific date is given for the book’s events, there are a few references that place it in the early 1960s.) Ultimately Isiah serves as something of a savior when someone frames Jeff for a drunk-driving homicide. When Isiah becomes the victim of racial violence while registering voters in Mississippi, Jeff falls apart. After Isiah’s attackers are acquitted, Jeff becomes convinced that violence is now essential, and the final portion of the book focuses on his quest for revenge. The book’s ending is abrupt, without much room for resolution, though the emotional impact on the characters is clear to the reader. While the writing needs editing, the narrative manages to stand out.

Historical fiction about the lives of young civil rights activists.

Pub Date: May 10th, 2011
ISBN: 978-1456766948
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Program: Kirkus Indie
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