Twelve-year-old Red Porter's world is falling apart. His father just died and his mother thinks she needs to move him and his younger brother back to Ohio. Red is determined to save their convenience store (aptly named, "What-U-Want") and Porter's garage--the car repair shop that was built by Red's great-great-granddaddy over a hundred years ago. Red's roots burrow deep in the town of Stony Gap and when his mother puts the house up for sale, Red does everything in his power to circumvent the sale.
But Red's story is bigger than just a grieving boy who wants to hold unto his home place. It's a coming-of-age story full of the choices Red must make.
In an effort to prove himself worthy of becoming a part of a gang of guys, Red's loyalty to his black friend Thomas is tested and found lacking. An ongoing family feud between his close friend Rosie's family and the Porter family over disputed property lines puts both Rosie and Red in precarious positions. Red must consider the consequences of coming to Rosie's aid or not.
Conversations with his teacher, Miss Miller, help Red to begin to understand the racism that exists in their town. Conversations with Miss Georgia, Thomas's grandmother, help Red uncover secrets buried deep in the town soil--secrets which incriminate his great-great-grandfather in a murder against one of Thomas's ancestors. As Red wrestles with the implications, he has a pivotal conversation with his friend Beau:
"I don't think it's how you look what makes you different. I think it's how you act."This is a great book to use in a classroom to discuss racism, grief, forgiveness, and family relationships. You can find a discussion guide here and a playlist of music that was popular in the 1970's.
We stood in silence for a while until Beau spoke again. "The way I see it is you got a chance now to make the name Frederick Stewart Porter stand for something different.'
"How? It's a pretty bad legacy."
"I know it is. But you can do it."
"How," I said again, not as a question. I didn't really expect an answer.
"Because you ain't just that nasty old Fredrick Steward Porters' great-great-grandown. You's also your daddy's son." (p. 288)
To get this giveaway in before Christmas, I'm giving you only a few days to enter. Please leave me a comment by 8 o'clock on December 22. Make sure you leave me your email address if you're new to my blog. I look forward to giving this to a young reader who will be inspired by Red's story.