Monday, April 4, 2011

#BookReview: Sweet Jiminy - Kristen Gore

Jiminy Davis walks away from her life in law school in Chicago and finds herself in the small Mississippi town in which her grandmother, Willa, lives. She's come to get away from everything.  Realizing that being attorney is not what she wants for her future, she hopes the time away will give her a chance to regroup.

Bo, the nephew of Willa's housekeeper, Lyn, has come back to Mississippi to study for his medical school entrance exams.  Growing up in the south, Bo knows all too well how the rural Mississippi town expects blacks to behave.  He's simply there to prepare for his exam without the distractions that he might have in a bigger city.

Years before this Jiminy was born, there was another Jiminy, Lyn's daughter.  Both Lyn's husband and the first Jiminy were killed in what was called an accident, but what everyone in town knows were deliberate killings.  With time on her hands and a natural curiosity, the current Jiminy is determined to find out what happened to her namesake.  The problem is having only visited the south during summers as a child, Jiminy is not always aware of the ways race factors into interactions in the town.  So she's shocked when she finds the previously polite townspeople reacting in unexpected ways to her questioning.

It was coincidental that I read this during the time the Investigative Discovery channel was premiering the Injustice Files series.  If you're not familiar with it, it features cold cases from the Civil Rights era.  All of the stories featured involved black men killed by members of the Klan, or those of that ilk, who have never been brought to justice for their crimes because the white citizens of their town either turned a blind eye to what was going on or actively engaged in the crimes themselves.  Kristen Gore did a fine job of creating characters quite similar to the people featured in the documentaries.

What did you like about this book?
There were a few twists and turns that I didn't quite expect.  Since I hate predictable books, I was pleasantly surprised by the unexpected.

What didn't you like about this book? 
I was going to say the second Jiminy's naivete was over the top, but after some thought I  decided it really wasn't.  Her experience as a white woman from a northern city played a big factor in how she saw race and race relations.  So while one might have expected her to know the rules of the South, she would have really had no reason to since her earlier experiences there as a child would have been structured in such a way that her only interactions with blacks would have been her grandmother's housekeeper, Lyn.

What could the author do to improve this book?
The author introduces a Latino family that's come to Mississippi to open a restaurant while pursuing the American dream. Other than using them as a way to introduce immigration to the story line, they really serve no purpose.  We already know the town is full of bigots, so giving them another group of color to intimidate is overkill.  It's pretty safe to assume that someone that doesn't care for African Americans has no use for any other people of color.  Their story line could have been nixed altogether.

Published: April 2011

Theme: Mercy, Mercy, Mercy by The Cannonball Adderley Quintet

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