On a scorching day in August 1954, thirteen-year-old Jubie Watts leaves Charlotte, North Carolina, with her family for a Florida vacation. Crammed into the Packard along with Jubie are her three siblings, her mother, and the family's black maid, Mary … see full wiki
I bought this book as a gift for my wife, but she told me how much she really enjoyed it, so I thought that I would read it myself. I'm very happy that I did, for it is a wonderful, well-written book about people and attitudes about race in the deep South in 1954.
The story is told by a precocious 13 year old girl, one of four children, whose family has a "girl", euphemistic talk for a black maid. Mary, the "girl", does all of the heavy lifting and other work around the house, even taking care of the children, while the mistress of the house can just be one of the "ladies who lunch". There is genuine affection between the narrator and Mary, but there tends to be a problem when the family drives from North Carolina to the Florida panhandle, and then back through Georgia.
Remember, this was 1954, when segregation was the rule and way of life in the South. Even those folks who were not overt racists didn't even consider the feelings of their black employees: meals at separate tables, separate bathrooms, etc.. It was a difficult way for the blacks to live, but they seemed to have no choice in the matter.
The plot gets into serious territory when the narrator, her older sister, and Mary attend a black revival meeting, and then walk back to their motel through the "white neighborhood". Violence and tragedy ensue, and the narrator does some very brave things, and proves that the attitudes of her time do not lie heavy on her head. In addition to the main plot, there are intimations that all is not well in the family between the parents, and some unusual misdealing in the father's business.
Having traveled through the South in the early `60s I saw some of the signs of overt racism written about in the book (in addition to roadside signs saying "Impeach Earl Warren"). This was a sad time in our history, and the author deals with the situation quite well. This is a book which should be read (along with "To Kill A Mockingbird") by those who were either too young, or were not yet born during these troubles times in our history. Hopefully we have grown beyond these parochial attitudes concerning race, but there are times when I'm not quite sure about it. Read the book, and learn.