JUNIUS OVER FAR by Virginia Hamilton
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One of Hamilton's more accessible and unforced novels, Junius Over Far celebrates a boy's love for his grandfather, a man's rediscovery of his roots, and an old man's dignity and belonging. In so doing it sounds the relationship between a black and a white descendent of a slave-owning family and weaves in a touch of first love, a little curiosity-piquing mystery, and a taste of life on a small Caribbean island. The story begins with 15-year-old Junius Rawlings acutely missing his grandfather Jackabo, who raised Junius while his parents worked but has recently retired to his native Caribbean island. A high-school loner, Junius even speaks in his grandfather's island accent. Their separation does, however, allow Junius time for his first girlfriend; and it is a pleasure to see his growing confidence with the beautiful Sarrietta. Jackabo has gone to live with his distant white cousin, Burtie Rawlings, in the ruins of the old Rawlings plantation. There it seems that the two "old enemies," who call each other Dirty Burtie and Stinking Black Jack, have formed an almost affectionate mutual accommodation. But Burtie has been spying on sinister strangers at a nearby house, and late one night Jackabo sees him carried off, "like a sack." What with too many drinks and the effects of age, neglect and solitude, grandfather becomes disoriented--and Junius and his father Damius are confused by his letter about Burtie being carried away by pirates. They are, however, concerned enough to go to the island, which Damius has avoided since his youth. From their arrival on the island the novel glows and snaps with strong, compelling scenes, be they small and intimate like their meeting with the dazed old man they recognize as father and grandfather, or dramatic and public, like their visit to the island police station where they report Burtie missing--only to learn of the white Rawlings' small-time treachery. If, in the end, the strangers' sinister business sounds like a Cold War concoction, and if the ultimate disposition of the Rawlings property seems a little too good to be convincingly true, these details are peripheral and unimportant compared to Hamilton's clear-sighted handling of the Burtie connection and her vibrant family portrait.
Pub Date: April 24th, 1985
Publisher: Harper & Row
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1985


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