SUDIE by Sara Flanigan


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Narrated in beguiling lil' kid red-clay dialect, and set in Georgia's 1940 redneck, Jim Crow territory, this damp preachment about brotherhood is certainly worthy, although embarrassingly heavy-handed. Ten-year-old Agnes Mary of the tiny town of Linlow, Sudie's best friend and classmate, tells all the worst, starting when, the day the school was let out to pick cotton (""which I hate to do more than anything in the whole wide world""), she sees Sudie handing over a little wild pig to . . .a ""Nigger""! (Agnes knows this is real bad because her Daddy and Grand-daddy had put up signs on Linlow's one highway that said: ""Nigger don't let the sun set on you in Linlow""). No one believes Agnes saw her do that, and Agnes Mary and Sudie fight, and Agnes Mary prays to God to give Sudie comeuppance. Later when they make up, Sudie tells Agnes Mary all about Simpson, and his house hidden in the kudzu vines; and the two are on the road to discover the truths about friends and sin and being Christian that the grown-ups have been lying to their kids about. The black man, Simpson, has lost his wife mad baby; and Sudie is the unloved child of a couple beaten down by the Depression. Both love animals--which brings them together--and soon Sudie will take the place of the baby daughter Simpson never had a chance to raise, and Simpson will become the loving father who teaches her about trust and respecting people. Sudie will learn, too, about Jim Crow as Simpson is humiliated in his own garden. The crisis comes when Simpson's house is discovered around the time the local (female) drug addict disappears. The lynch mob is suiting up, when, thanks to a Yankee schoolteacher and a good doctor, the town ""morals"" are shaken down as: the doctor elbows out a white-supremacy preacher; a town child abuser is exposed; and there's character renovation all around. Stereotypes abound: Simpson is a tower of Nobility; the doctor and schoolteacher glow with Enlightenment; and the natives have nasty streaks and pea brains. A moral lesson ever new and true, but the treatment is old hat.

Pub Date: Feb. 4th, 1985
Publisher: St. Martin's