The teachers and librarians of Lafayette Parish were a wonderful and warm and responsive audience. After the last session, I packed up the laptop, topped off the tank with gas, grabbed a humongous Diet Coke, and hit the road west toward home. Five hours later, I pulled up to the house as the last strains of Uncle Bump['s harmonica were drifting from the final CD of A THOUSAND NEVER EVERS. I had the good fortune to meet author Shauna Burg at the Texas Library Association conference a few months ago. When Listening Library sent me the audiobook, I set it aside for this trip. As I drove, I listened raptly to the story of Addie Ann and her family in Mississippi in 1963. The murder of Medgar Evers, the bombing of the Sunday school class in Birmingham and other events cause a little buzz in Addie's small town. Before the year is over, however, there will be more than buzzing as the members of Addie's community face racism in its most virulent form: false accusations of crimes and threats of lynchings. Addie's brother has to flee town after he defends Addie (and her cherished cat, FlapJack) from one of the local bullies. Addie's uncle Bump is accused of destroying the town's garden as a deliberate act of revenge. Is there any justice to be had?
I must admit that there were times I wanted to turn the CD off and simply rail against the injustice of the South during the time of Jim Crow. It is difficult to confront people in books who act with such malice and pure evil. But Addie's indomitable spirit soars through the harsh reality. Her coming of age in this turbulent time is not simple, but her strength of character is heartening. Reminiscent at times of Christopher Paul Curtis' WATSONS, the mixture of humor and darkness is in perfect balance. The narrator of this audio, Kenya Brome, is perfection. She gives singular voice to Addie, creating something that moves beyond the text. It was lovelt to have her along for the trip.