Monday, January 15, 2018

Missing Isaac by Valerie Fraser Luesse - REVIEWED

About the Book:
Isaac believed in luck. But from Pete's point of view, Isaac's luck had all run out.

When Pete McLean loses his father in the summer of 1962, his friend Isaac is one of the few people he can lean on. Though their worlds are as different as black and white, friendship knows no color. So when Isaac suddenly goes missing, Pete is determined to find out what happened--no matter what it costs him. His quest will lead him into parts of town that he knows only through rumors and introduce him to a girl who will change his life. What they discover together will change the small Southern town of Glory, Alabama--forever.

With vivid descriptions, palpable atmosphere, and unforgettable characters, debut novelist Valerie Fraser Luesse breathes life into the rural South of the 1960s--a place where ordinary people struggle to find their footing in a social landscape that is shifting beneath their feet.

My Thoughts:

Both of them were finally free.”  (p. 337)

Freedom…it is something that the characters in Valerie Fraser Luesse’s debut novel, Missing Isaac, long for.  For most of them, this longing remains unidentified, but the reader’s heart will recognize and resound with this longing throughout the book.  By the time you savor these last words your heart will be running over…and making tracks down your cheeks! 

Books that bring tears to my eyes remain dear to my heart, and they become friends that I come back to visit over and over again. Luesse has created characters that resound with Alabama native substance!  She has NAILED the culture here, including the dark underbelly of small town politics and shady legal practices.  She doesn’t shy away from the heartbreaking reality of stereotyping  that takes place across racial and socioeconomic boundaries.  Sadly, these remain strongholds in the lives of many people inhabiting rural Southern towns.

But I digress…this novel!  Pete and Dovey…the loss they’ve endured but the victory they find in loving each other well just blows me away!  And Lila and John…what a beautiful picture of mercy and grace and how tenderly they merge and bring new life out of the broken places….sigh!!  And Aunt Babe, Hattie, and Mama Paul and the Pritchett clan…I recognize these people!  Oh and let’s not forget Celeste and Sheriff Harley…those two!!  I shudder to remember their presence!  Geneva has their number though!!! I’m telling you now, these characters come to vivid life in your heart and you will laugh and weep and rejoice with them throughout the novel!

Please, Ms. Luesse, share more of your stories!! I eagerly wait for them!! I pray there are many to follow this one!  BRAVO!!!  (oh, and WAR EAGLE!)

About the Author:
Valerie Fraser Luesse is an award-winning magazine writer best known for her feature stories and essays in Southern Living, where she is currently a senior travel editor. Her work has been anthologized in the audio collection Southern Voices and in A Glimpse of Heaven, an essay collection featuring works by C. S. Lewis, Randy Alcorn, John Wesley, and others. As a freelance writer and editor, she was the lead writer for Southern Living 50 Years: A Celebration of People, Places, and Culture. Specializing in stories about unique pockets of Southern culture, Luesse has published major pieces on the Gulf Coast, the Mississippi Delta, Louisiana's Acadian Prairie, and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Her editorial section on Hurricane Katrina recovery in Mississippi and Louisiana won the 2009 Writer of the Year award from the Southeast Tourism Society. Luesse earned her bachelor's degree in English at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, and her master's degree in English at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She grew up in Harpersville, Alabama, a rural community in Shelby County, and now lives in Birmingham.

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