Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Center Hill (copy)

So many Mississippians are writing. This is great but this is also troubling. I like that people are willing to tell their story. I enjoyed Norma Watkins’ The Last Resort. She spoke so honestly she risked her likability to convey the truth behind black-white relations in the 60s.

What I find troubling is the amount that is being written. With so many Mississippi books flooding the market, one has to pick and choose the right book to read. Also, with all this work, what will make the book stand out from others in the crowd?

Maury M. Haraway has written just such a book that needs to be read in our area. Center Hill is the fictional account of those early Mississippians who began their American Dream in the wilds of a budding state in 1836. Center Hill is still on the map today east of Olive Branch.

Our story begins in 1844 after the homes have been built and the dirt paths to larger communities trod. The Henshaw family has worked the land for over 10 years and established friendly terms with neighbors and one Indian family that owned property prior to the banishment of the Chickasaws.

Youngest member of the family, Hern, is about to turn five when something amazing happens. Something so amazing he remembers it for the rest of his life.

Out of the corner of his little eye, he spots movement under the bushes at the border of the yard. Hern creeps low and begins to crawl under the brush. Once enshrouded his eyes become familiar with the dark and he sees the thing that first caught his attention. On the other side of the copse sits a rabbit, a rather large rabbit that stares back at him with understanding in his eyes.

This seems wrong. Why is the rabbit staying still? As they stare at each other, Hern notices the guard hairs on his coat shimmering in the soft light filtering through the leaves. He is obviously scared, but instead of escaping he hops closer. Close enough to be made into a meal, but both stare until finally the rabbit turns and slowly hops away.

Haraway told eager listeners at the Senatobia Lunch with Books group that the Henshaw family is loosely based on his own and that stories told in the book have some basis in truth. Readers will encounter plenty of interaction between man and beast. This prompted Haraway to confess that he wanted to study animal psychology as a boy. Pick up this hero’s journey. It shouts over the crowd.

No comments: