Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Air between Us (copy)

Like most readers, I have a stack of books ready for reading in my home. This allows me a chance to read something for which my mood dictates. I go for the book on top, but then shuffle if it does not grab my attention. Sometimes a book finds itself on the bottom and I end up taking it back to the library.

One such book, The Air between Us by Deborah Johnson, has been in the pile numerous times. Not only have I renewed then returned two separate copies – a new hardback and also the paperback – but I went out and purchased a copy for the pile. This was a book I wanted to read; furthermore, I needed to read.

Set in the fictional 1960’s town of Revere, Mississippi, Critter Tate is having trouble. He is having trouble steering his father’s pick-up truck and stepping on the pedals at the same time. So far he has managed to drive 30 miles into town without a wreck, but the town curbs are giving him a time. With a little extra gas he launches over the curb at Doctors Hospital and comes to an abrupt stop at the black only entrance.

All of 10-years-old, Critter thinks he has done right, but the trouble continues. His passenger, Billy Ray Puckett, lays strewn across the seat with blood oozing from his white self. Critter’s dad is gonna be mad when he sees all the blood. Then the attendants flat out refuse to allow Billy Ray in the black only entrance.

It didn’t look good for Billy Ray as Critter notices his blood turning dark. Critter has seen death enough times to recognize the signs. Back in the truck, he hauls it around to the other side of Doctors and sits paralyzed at the door. Seeing no one through the screen, Critter cringes as he knows he faces a sure whipping if he goes through the white only entrance.

Billy Ray lets out a moan that sets Critter through the door and to the first nurse he can find. None-too-happy the nurse scowls down at him as he burst out, “I told him he was doing it all wrong!” Billy Ray had fallen out of his rickety deer stand and gone and shot himself.

The Air between Us is well worth the read. Deborah Johnson, currently living in Columbus, displays a mastery of storytelling in her first novel. What I thought would be a depressing story blooms into a funny, quirky mystery that holds a reader’s attention for hours. The characters are so alive the story might be set in Anywhere, Mississippi.

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