Anyone who knows me knows that I have a penchant for southern stories by southern writers. It’s not that I find their writing better than anyone else’s, but southerners and storytelling go hand-in-hand like catfish and cornbread.
The author of the book I’m reviewing today has secured a place at the top of my list of favorite authors.
Jonathan Odell may live in Minnesota now, but he was born and raised in Mississippi, which makes him a southerner by birthright in my book.
Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League was originally titled The View From Delphi. It is the story of not only racism in the deep south, but of the prejudices that run parallel. It’s a story of loathing (white attitudes toward colored) and unspoken love and loyalty (the (white) Senator and Miss Pearl’s affections toward their (colored) childhood friend, Levi)
Racism is a topic that weaves its way through conversations to this day. But what about prejudice? In Odell’s novel, he also explores the prejudices that still exist in every corner of the country: the rich and powerful (begrudgingly accepting) the ‘hicks’ although white, the Grahams, the attitude toward Billy Dean from his own in-laws. (This isn’t about race because these people are all white.)
Odell also explores the unlikely bond that transcends racism when two women who initially hate each other find their common ground.
Odell paints the perfect picture of 1940’s-1950’s south. The characters are real and draw on our sympathies. Even the youngest, Johnnie, is well developed and lends to the authenticity of the story.
I’m not going to go into too many details and possibly ruin what might be the best book you read this year, but I will say, you won’t be disappointed with the style, the story, or the feelings that linger once you’ve finished. Move over O’Connor, Capote, Stockett, and Flagg…Make room for Odell.
K.E Garvey is the award-winning author of Lily White Lies, The Red Strokes, and Missouri in a Suitcase, the former written under the pen name Nova Scott. To learn more about her and her work, follow the links listed below. Have you read Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League? Share your thoughts!