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THE GETTIN PLACE by Susan Straight

THE GETTIN PLACE

By Susan Straight

Pub Date: June 27th, 1996
ISBN: 0-7868-6086-3
Publisher: Hyperion

 An ambitious and engrossing portrayal of a black family under siege in white America, by the accomplished young author of the short-story sequence Aquaboogie (1990) and the novel I Been in Sorrow's Kitchen and Licked Out All the Pots (1992). The story is set, as are Straight's earlier books, in a racially divided California city: This time, it's (fictional) Rio Seco, where hardworking Hosea Thompson's relative security (he owns an auto salvage and repair business) is threatened when a burning car with two dead white women in it is found on his property and Hosea, protesting police accusations, is shot and wounded, then jailed. The story branches out quickly, and in several fruitful directions. Straight explores the reactions of Hosea's aggrieved and mystified family; his memories of the (historical) race riots of some 60 years earlier in Tulsa, Oklahoma, when his family was terrorized and his father killed; the enlistment of his youngest son Marcus (a high-school history teacher, whom his rough-edged older siblings nickname ``Sissyfly'') to help prove Hosea's innocence; and Marcus's own complicated memories of growing up knowing he wanted a different life, struggling to keep his distance from his family without succumbing to condescension. Straight stumbles only when detailing Marcus's attempts to jog his sullen students' consciences during Black History month; here, and only here, the novel briefly shrinks to the dimensions of a sociology lesson. Otherwise, its power to involve us in the lives of a sprawling clan whose members are all vividly differentiated remains undiminished over more than 400 pages. Nor should it be forgotten that Straight has contrived a fascinating mystery, whose credible and satisfying solution contains a stunning climactic irony. Both dramatic and melodramatic in the best possible senses: another impassioned and powerful performance by one of the best writers to have emerged in this decade. (Author tour)