Tag Archives: Victor Bevine

Book Review: Mississippi Trial, 1955 by Chris Crowe (3/5)

31 Oct

This is another book I got a free audiobook of from my library’s summer program. I moved it up my TBR a bit because it fit a time period I needed to wrap up my When Are You Reading? Challenge. I’ve still got my fingers crossed I finish that.

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Cover image via Amazon.

Mississippi Trial, 1955 by Chris Crowe

Summary from Amazon:

At first Hiram is excited to visit his hometown in Mississippi. But soon after he arrives, he crosses paths with Emmett Till, a black teenager from Chicago who is also visiting for the summer. Hiram sees firsthand how the local whites mistreat blacks who refuse to “know their place.” When Emmett’s tortured dead body is found floating in a river, Hiram is determined to find out who could do such a thing. But what will it cost him to know?

I’m glad I didn’t read the summary of this one. I knew what was coming the second I heard Emmett’s name. His case is so infamous that it immediately told me what was happening in the rest of the story. At least without the summary I had a bit of time with some unknown. What bothered me most is that it felt like this wasn’t a story that should have come from a white narrator. It felt wrong to me that Hiram was telling the story and not one of Emmett’s family members. We meet his cousins and find out that Ruth Anne is somehow related, but it’s still Hiram telling the story. Toward the end we find out more about his connection to the case, but I think it still seemed off.

I think it’s worth noting that this story is coming to movie theatres soon. And told from his mother’s perspective.

Hiram seemed just slightly unbelievable to me. It seemed odd to me that he wasn’t aware of how racist his grandfather was after living with him for so long. We had to suspend disbelief that he would have picked that up. What really got me was that his father would never had said anything about it to Hiram, especially before he went back to spend the summer with his grandfather. The feud between his father and grandfather was that his father disliked how his grandfather treated black people. I’d have to assume Hiram would have picked up on the ideas of one of these men and had the other challenge him before his late teenage years. Children seem to parrot ideas they hear so easily. How could this strongly held belief not be parroted from either man?

I wanted to like Naomi but she fell flat for me at the end. She was a victim of circumstances and did the best she could with a drunk father and an angry brother. The fact that she was still sweet is a miracle. We hear her desires to go to school and make something of herself, but Hiram doesn’t seem to believe she’ll really do it and I was confused why. What is it about her that’s given him this impression? The narrator doubting her made me doubt her. I was hoping there would be a bit more resolution with their relationship, too.

I’ve had moments in my life where I realized someone I loved or respected held ideas that I could not align with, much like Hiram and his grandfather. It’s jarring. It makes you rethink things about your relationship. I understood when Hiram had to shift his opinion of his grandfather and how it continued to happen as time went on. I think it makes you appreciate those who did shape your mind a lot more.

I like Hiram’s relationship with Naomi until the end. I thought it was a very sweet and genuine thing and I was hoping it would turn into something more than it did. Other than that, there wasn’t that stood out to me about this book. It fell really flat.

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Chris Crowe. Image via Goodreads

R.C. really bothered me as a character. I understand he embodied the ideas that many Southern whites held at the time but I think this would have been more powerful if seen through Hiram’s grandfather. He seemed like an unnecessary add just to address white poverty, which wasn’t relevant to the story.

The audiobook was narrated by Victor Bevine. I liked how he read the story and felt he gave weight to the things that needed it. I think he was a good choice for this book as it would have been odd to have someone without a Southern drawl read the story.

Emmett Till’s lynching is a well known catalyst in the Civil Rights movement. I think it’s important that its talked about and shared. I think we should challenge the assumptions and prejudices of older generations as we continue to advance our culture to be more inclusive of those with diverse backgrounds. It’s good that this story is being told, even if I don’t agree this was the best way to tell it.

Writer’s Takeaway: One of the faults I find in historical fiction is often that the characters seem terribly modern for the time period they’re living in. This suffered from that to me. Hiram was easier to relate to because his ideas were very modern and his approach to people of diverse ethnicities was in line with a lot of us today. That doesn’t make him realistic for his time. I would have liked better if his father talked about a reason he opposed his father or an event that showed him the error of his father’s thinking. Maybe fighting side-by-side with a Black man in the war, or an encounter in Greenwood that challenged what his father had taught him. I think the story suffered without this.

Overall a good story but not the one I wanted. Three out of Five Stars.

This book fulfills the 1940-1959 time period of the When Are You Reading? Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

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