Susan Carol McCarthy, Author . Bantam $23.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-553-80169-9

Basing her first novel on real events in central Florida in 1951, McCarthy offers an evocative if overly familiar picture of the racist South at the start of the civil rights movement. She tells her story through the eyes of 12-year-old Reesa McMahon, whose transplanted Yankee parents are relative newcomers in the small community of Mayflower. The local Opalakee Klan terrorizes and murders young black citrus picker Marvin Cully, who works for the McMahons' growing and shipping company. Aware that the local police are corrupt Klan members, Reesa's father decides to contact the FBI. Soon, NAACP attorney Thurgood Marshall is called in to the case, and barely escapes with his life when the Klan attempts to abduct him. Bombings of black housing projects and Jewish congregations occur in other parts of Florida. When the leader of Florida's NAACP and his wife are murdered in Miami, there are indications that the Opalakee Klan is involved. Because he decides to cooperate with the FBI investigation, Reesa's father puts the family into danger. Reesa is an engaging narrator, obsessed with the murder of her friend Marvin, slowly becoming aware of the virulent hatred and bigotry that coexists with their neighbors' generosity, good manners and Baptist spiritual fervor. As McCarthy establishes the domestic and social routines of an inbred community, she also takes pains to render Reesa as an impressionable preadolescent, though she credits her with insights beyond her age. Still, the sincerity of her tale and its simple telling would make the book as interesting to young adult readers as it will be to those who remember or want to learn about the tangled moral questions of the '50s. Agent, Lane Zachary. (Feb.)

FYI:In researching her novel, McCarthy had access to FBI files sealed for 40 years.

Reviewed on: 01/14/2002
Release date: 01/01/2002
Open Ebook - 176 pages - 978-0-307-41819-7
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