DESCRIPTION AS ON AMAZON:
In 1947 racially-charged Mills Hollow, South Carolina, Chloe Mason knows not to go near the Negroes who live in the river shacks, especially sixteen-year-old Big Jim. He’s something of a myth, a big black boy known for eating opossums and howling at the moon. At least that’s what Chloe’s brother, Caleb, and her Pa, a fiddle-playing Southerner who waves a Confederate flag, tell her. Yet when Chloe slips into Foxhole Swamp, it’s Big Jim who saves her from an alligator. She secretly befriends Big Jim and takes it upon herself to teach him to read, even bringing him a forbidden peach from Widow Jones’ tree. Chloe meets Big Jim in a tree fort he constructs in the woods, and together they endure the injustices Big Jim suffers – like being whipped by Chloe’s father for trespassing. But once her father discovers their secret meetings and is ready to lynch Big Jim, Chloe’s loyalty is tested to the breaking point, calling into question everything she’s come to believe about herself, her family, and what truly matters most.
A familiar theme in an imaginary place, the message came through. The mechanics flowed smoothly, and the story interested me, but Chloe seemed younger than thirteen to me; maybe it was the time and setting. I found other characters more captivating, such as Widow Jones; the secrets the woman carried could have been a novel unto themselves. The point at which Chloe's father had to choose between her or his best friend and their beliefs, I didn't think I'd ever see that happen; it shocked me. The ending left with me with nagging questions, will there be a sequel?