Passing Through Perfect (Wyattsville #3)

  • PassingThroughPerfectAuthor: Bette Lee Crosby
  • Expected Publication January 2015 by Bent Pine Publishing
  • Category: Historical Fiction
  • five-stars

It’s 1946. The war is over. Millions of American soldiers are coming home and Benjamin Church is one of them. After four years of being away he thought things in Alabama would have changed, but they haven’t. Grinder’s Corner is as it’s always been–a hardscrabble burp in the road. It’s not much, but it’s home.

My thanks to Bette Lee Crosby for sending me an advance e-copy for review

When Benjamin meets the beautiful Delia Finch in Twin Pines, the nearest town to Grinder’s Corner, it’s love at first sight. As their relationship deepens Delia and Benjamin spend as much time together as they can manage. 

Delia’s father, the preacher in Twin Pines, is a harsh and cold man. He disowns his daughter when he learns she is pregnant and planning to marry Benjamin and forbids his wife to see or speak to their daughter. Delia knows forgiveness is not in her father’s nature and what he preached was most definitely not what he practiced. Delia moves to Grinder’s Corner with Benjamin and gains some comfort with Otis as her father figure.

You might think I’m a fool standing there, letting Mister Finch beat on me as he did, but I figured if he got enough revenge he’d go easier on Delia. ‘Course, that ain’t what happened.

I can understand him being mad, but I sure can’t understand him saying those awful things to his own daughter. When he called her a whore, it was all I could do not to tear into him. In my head I kept thinking he’s Delia’s daddy, and when he gets over his mad he’ll forgive her. Even when he said to get out of his house and never come back, I figured Delia’s mama would step in and put a stop to it but Mister Finch wasn’t listening to anybody – mot me, not Delia, and not even her mama.

Alabama in the 40’s and 50’s is a tough place to live for coloured folk with the white/black segregation everywhere. Benjamin and his father, Otis, eke out a living growing seasonal produce. The tiny surrounding community of mixed race families live peacefully together but this isn’t the case across the South in general. Benjamin is a good, hard-working man with decent values and a sense of pride. Delia and their son, Isaac come first, always, and he will do whatever he has to, to support and care for them. They live through good times and not so good times, then one day Benjamin’s world is turned upside down, never to be the same, and he feels the full force of the colour divide. Unable to reconcile his sense of injustice he decides on a complete change for himself and Isaac.

The significance of the title ‘Passing Through Perfect’ is a lovely touch. I wondered how Benjamin’s story would tie in with Wyattsville. I do like the way characters from previous stories are integrated into later ones.

I love the way Bette Lee Crosby tells a story, this one mostly from Benjamin’s point of view with individual perspectives beginning each chapter. It’s a very moving and powerful tale, the prejudice and intolerance of the time show both sides of human nature regardless of skin colour. Benjamin’s acknowledgement of what he considers his place in society is undeniably apparent and is accepted as just the way things are. Despite that and the hardships and suffering Benjamin stays true to his own individuality. 

An uplifting story of family, love, kindness and hope, despite some people’s less than commendable behaviour and attitudes.

The Test

  • IMG_0739Author: John Lansing
  • Published: November 2014 by Tatra Press
  • A Short Story
  • five-stars

A coming-of-age story set in 1950s, small-town Long Island, at a time when suburban America is about to undergo  seismic societal changes.

Jack Morgan returns, for what he knows will be the last time, to Baldwin, Long Island in order to settle his parents’ affairs. He felt indifferent about the sale of his boyhood home until he found himself parked outside. Looking at the house unleashed the floodgates of memories and emotions, taking him back to 1963 when he was a boy of fourteen in a completely different social and racial climate.

Jack and his two best friends, Gene and Greg, are sprucing up and getting a little buzzed on beer before heading to the dance hall. The evocative atmosphere is captured perfectly and is so relatable. Having the pre dance drinks for dutch courage, only in our case it was cider – yuck! Even after all this time I still can’t so much as think of drinking the stuff. The groups of boys and girls separated by the width of the room, the music and the coloured lights. After a couple of false starts Jack gets to dance with the girl of his dreams. Only it’s anything but straightforward.

“Jack, you’ve got to leave…now. No shit. I heard some crazy talk. Go! Now!”

I read the fear in Vida’s eyes; she nodded her head yes. I took her lead and we were on the move across the dance floor, hearts thumping. We grabbed our coats and were out the door and walking briskly down Grand Avenue before the song ended.

A touching teenage love, described with feeling and emotion, which could never be realised without probable tragic consequences. But, above all else, this is a poignant and disturbing reminder of the social conflict of the time. Racial prejudice was prevalent in most communities and was a major factor for a large number of people. When the first black family arrives in Baldwin the event is viewed with mounting dismay and anxiety by the towns’ residents. As Jack finds out to his cost.

For all this is short there’s a lot of story going on. The writing is distinct and expressive and has a truly authentic feel. Real people, real situations. And the ending! I hurt for Jack. He has never found lasting happiness, the fact he has three ex-wives is indicative, and it would be so sad if the reason was an unrequited first love, especially given the circumstances. A very emotive story told exceptionally well and one that leaves a lasting impression.