An understated first novel depicting one rather ordinary year in the life of a tenyear-old boy growing up in small-town North Carolina during the Depression.
Jim Glass lost his father to a heart attack while he toiled in the fields three months before his son was born. Now, growing up in the small town of Aliceville, Jim is being raised by his devoted mother and his three no-less-devoted uncles, Zeno and the twins, Coran and Al. Living a kind of Norman Rockwell existence in the mid1930s, Jim, called ``Doc'' by his bachelor uncles, is just starting to experience a world that stretches outside of his tightly controlled environment. He learns how to hoe a cornfield. Traveling with one of his uncles, he gets to see the ocean for the first time. On Christmas Eve he witnesses the results of electricity finally being introduced into the area. He hears inspirational tales of his dead father as well as horrifying accounts of his mean, ornery bootlegging grandfather, who lives in the hills not far from his new pal and sometime adversary, Penn Carson, a Quaker boy who has been bussed, along with other hill folk, to the school that has just been built to replace the old oneroom schoolhouse. And he witnesses his mother turn down the marriage proposal of a wellmeaning traveling seed salesman primarily out of loyalty to her dead husband.
Earley has a simplistic, at times mindnumbing arch style that is obviously an attempt to give a sepia sheen to what is supposed to be a sweet coming-of-age story. The plot is often so light and airy, however, that the book practically floats away, ultimately leaving the reader with a hole where a heart should be. (Book-of-the-Month Club/Quality Paperback Book Club selection)