Monday, December 9, 2013

SEEING RED by Kathryn Erskine

First off, let me say, I'm giving away an Advanced Reader Copy of this book - unless of course, my generous nature kicks in and I decide to part with my gorgeous hardcover. The jury is still arguing over that. Either way you can't go wrong. So leave a comment AND share on social media to be entered in the contest. 

But first, the review.
SEEING RED is a disturbing book. There is the abusive neighbor and I've lived long enough to know he exists. There is the religious bigot and oh, yeah, I've met that one too. And then there is Red Porter, who in the midst of grief, does some things that go against his gentle nature.

Red's father is dead and he wants nothing more than to remain as close to him as possible.  For Red, that means keeping his father's auto repair shop open. He loves everything about it, the cars arriving outside (which he can identify just by the sound of the engine), the feel of the tools in his hand, and the smells of oil and tires.

From Page 2  I walked up the stairs in the back where Daddy had his office, taking in a deep breath of everything I loved. The shop was oil and gas and paint and dirt. It was brake pads, hoses, filters, and about any kind of tool you'd ever need to fix a car or truck. It was Lava soap, old rags, and a sink with a faucet you could turn on with just your elbow. It was the last place I saw Daddy.

I relate to the above quote from the book.  This was my Grandpop's shop/gas station in Plumsteadville, PA. The smell of tires, oil, and gas will always remind me of someone I loved.


Red clings to his Dad's garage but Mama wants to move on and, for her, that means selling the property and taking Red and his little brother to Ohio to live with her family. In some desperate attempts to thwart the sale, Red flirts dangerously with delinquent behaviors.

The property Mama wants to sell (house, store and car repair shop) border the property of the abusive/racist neighbor and tangled up in the mix is some vague history Red has heard about his family's property, the abusive Dunlop's property and an African-American church.  There's also some dispute over the property boundaries and the belief that more than one hundred years ago a Dunlop ancestor killed the black pastor of the church.

As Red thinks back over some scenes he'd witnessed between Daddy and Mr. Dunlop, those memories provide a puzzle with some pieces missing. But he's determined to find the pieces, assemble them, right some societal wrongs (his included), and maybe even hang on to his home place at the same time.

SEEING RED is truly readable. It's underlined with mystery, filled with action, and populated with rich and complicated relationships. And it doesn't hurt that Kathryn Erskine writes tough subjects with gently placed humor. There's some collective soul searching to explore here and fortunately, Scholastic has created a Common Core Discussion Guide designed for Grades 5 -9. .

The story is set in 1972 so, of course, America is going through a huge cultural shift.The most disturbing elements of SEEING RED have to do with racial relationships. In the Author Note, Erskine shares her passion for racial justice. As a child, she lived for awhile in South Africa surrounded by injustice and racial tension. Later she came to America and realized the painful truth that apartheid exists here too. As her mother explained it - "...we just don't call it that." 
   
Please check back this week, because I've snagged an interview with Kathy.  I might even go into a blogging frenzy and post 2 days in a row!

Here's the United Kingdom cover for SEEING RED.  Personally, I'm crazy about it!




19 comments:

  1. Looking forward to your interview! This should be an interesting read, knowing that the author has lived in both South Africa and America. With the action set in 1972, there should be some fertile ground to explore in regard to race relations.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah,yes - and we remember the 70's don't we Ani?

      Stay tuned for the interview!

      Delete
  2. Sounds like my kind of story and I love the red cover!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Shannon, you'll care about this character! I've entered you in the contest!

      Delete
  3. No need to enter me, but glad to read this review and see you back in the blogosphere, Joyce!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's actually good to be back. And after writing this, I wrote 2256 words in my story. Maybe I should blog more!

      Delete
  4. Nice review! This book is already on my TBR list, but it is moving up with a bullet! I really do like the UK cover. Thanks for such a compelling overview.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Moving up with a bullet! Love the drama, Rosi! I've entered you in the contest.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Joyce,
    I definitely want to read this one after hearing your take on it. I look forward to the author interview too. Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Linda, I hope you do get the chance to read it. Thanks for dropping by, I've entered you in the contest.

      Delete
  7. Enjoyed this great summary. I have to admit the book is in my pile and I've not gotten through it yet. This spurs me on. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Linda, Sometimes we just need uninterrupted space for reading - I find that is often a problem for me. Hope you get a chance to read Seeing Red. I've entered you in the contest.

      Delete
  8. Your great overview, Joyce, makes SEEING RED sound like a "must read" to me. Can't wait!

    Mary Morton Cowan

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I entered you, Mary! Thanks for participating!

      Delete
  9. This looks and sounds really good. No need to enter me, though. :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. Replies
    1. Hi Emily,

      I entered you! Thanks for participating.

      Joyce

      Delete