Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Velva Jean Learns to Drive (copy)

I like Velva Jean. She is “all of” 10 years old and knows a thing or two about being saved. She knows that if she dies before being saved she will go straight to hell. That’s what her Daddy told her. Her Daddy says that he and her Momma pray every night that the good Lord take her if she dies, even though she’s not been saved.

Velva Jean lives with her Momma, sometimes her Daddy, Johnny Clay, Linc, and Beachard on Fair Mountain. Been like that since great-great-great granddaddy named the mountain. He thought it too bold to name after the Justice’s family, but he liked it being the same word as just.

Older sister, Sweet Fern, married off and now lives above the only store for miles, Deal’s General Store. Danny Deal is nice and sometimes Velva Jean feels sorry for him since he has to live with her sister who ain’t like her name.

Well, Velva Jean is sure that if she dies she will not get to see everyone in eternity. They all been saved and she would miss Daddy Hoyt and Granny, and Ruby Poole, and Aunt Bird and Uncle Turk, and (hard to say this-but also) Sweet Fern. Even Johnny Clay who is only a couple years older than her has the keys to the pearly gates. He was saved last year.

Isn’t she supposed to feel something as they call the lambs to the altar, though? Why does she sit like a sack of potatoes waiting? Doesn’t the spirit make you want to dance and holler like Mrs. Garland Welch? There’s no reason to walk the aisle if she is going to feel like her old self.

Author, Jennifer Niven, also likes Velva Jean. She told an audience at ALA that it was her favorite character. She wrote Velva Jean Learns to Drive after reading a short story her mother wrote that was based on the family’s history. Her next book in the series, Velva Jean Learns to Fly, goes on sale in August.

Niven is another one of those writers who are-but-aren’t Southern. Readers will not find her birth to be in the south or her rearing. Also, she lives in Los Angeles. The fact that her family is North Carolina, McJunkins, and she sets her books in the state makes her southern enough for me.

I looked at a very calm Niven as she told us she was a bundle of nerves. Her deadline for Velva Jean’s second book was nearing. She complained to her mother, author Penelope Niven, recently who replied, “It is not a deadline, but a lifeline.” Readers will enjoy Velva Jean’s life lines.

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