There are some people who, when they die, all you can think of is the light that they imparted.
It was sad to hear of the death of Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Mary Oliver. She said in an interview on National Public Radio that "The two things I loved from a very early age were the natural world and dead poets, [who] were my pals when I was a kid."
I just finished reading a beautifully written novel by Attica Locke,
Bluebird, Bluebird. I heard about it when I listened to an interview with the author on NPR while driving to work over a year ago. I was intrigued
by the interview and the discussion of the book. As soon as I parked the car, I
took a notepad that I keep near the dashboard and wrote, “Bluebird, Bluebird,
Attica Locke.” Time passed and I came
across the note. Remembering that is was a good interview, and that the book
held some insights into race relations in the South, I decided to find the
Since my wife and daughter had given me a Nook last
Christmas, finding the book was as simple as a search on Nook’s shopping
page. The novel is something of a crime
drama, or a mystery detective story involving an African American Texas Ranger
who is caught up in one unsolved murder as he goes down to investigate another murder
in the rural East Texas town of Lark. That one is actually two murders. The body of a young black man washes up in the bayou, and the next day the body of a young white woman washes up in the same bayou.
Attica Locke’s storytelling is compelling and tightly
woven. Her story sheds light on the
intricacies of family relationships as well as the complexities of race
relations in small southern communities. One gets to hear about black families
who migrated north to escape the oppression of the South. The reader also gets a view life for those who stayed. As Locke puts
it as she narrates the story, “Most black folks living in Lark came from
sharecropping families, trading their physical enslavement for the crushing
debt that came with tenant farming, a leap from the frying pan into the fire,
from the certainty of hell to the slow, hot torture of hope.”
Bluebird is a suspenseful page-turner of a novel. A great story with fully developed characters,
but more than that, the writing is sheer beauty. Locke expresses every detail of the world she
invites us to inhabit so that we get the sounds, the colors, the sights and the
smells of the full environment. I could almost feel the humid summer night air by that East Texas bayou as the tale unfolded.
There is one
scene in which Darren, the Texas Ranger, is riding in his truck with Randie,
the widow of the young black man whose murder he is investigating. He rolls
down the window for a moment and then puts it back up. Even in that simple moment, Locke fully describes the aromas of the night air, the feel
of the wind in the cab of the truck, and the sounds that are made by the air as
the truck window closes. It is the many details like that make this make this a
rich, dynamic and unforgettable story.
I can highly recommend this book. I have no disclosures to make. No one asked
me to write this review. Barnes and Noble is not paying me to say I read it on
my Nook, nor do I have any financial investments in Nook or any other Barnes and
Noble products. Moreover, I am not
employed by NPR. I’m just a guy who listens to Public Radio and enjoys a good
book, passing this one along to you.
* * *
About halfway into the novel, the title is explained when
the jukebox in Geneva’s café plays a John Lee Hooker record as the protagonist
is leaving and he hears the opening line, “Bluebird, bluebird, take this letter
down south for me…”