Blue Hole Back Home is one of the best novels I’ve read in a long while. It gripped me from the beginning and wouldn’t let me go, even after the last page.
The author keeps ratcheting up the tension as the story progresses. She begins with “backstitching time…two dreams crisscrossing paths, one snagging the other in passing.” A face in the present brings memories of events that occurred twenty-five years past. What follows is a leap back in time to tell the story, leaving the reader anxious to know how it will all turn out.
Shelby, also known as Turtle, hangs out with her older brother and his friends, a good guy gang that not only works together at their landscaping/yard care business, but also plays together, mostly at the Blue Hole, swimming and sunning and drinking Coke and Dr. Pepper.
Setting is vividly portrayed in waves of heat and bare feet; cool drinks and the swimming hole; the Bee Gees, the Eagles and Peter Frampton. Turtle and the gang believe they live in the best place and time in the world, enjoying life in spite of a few irritating peers. Then Farsanna and her family move into town from Sri Lanka, the only non-whites in Turtle’s southern town, and the real soul of the neighborhood begins to emerge.
Even in the sweltering North Carolina summer of 1979, we sense that trouble is brewing in the lazy little town. The first hints are minor, but incidents become more frequent and more serious until we are afraid of what’s ahead. But this is 1979, long after the civil rights movement is part of history. Or is it?
Author Joy Jordan-Lake pens her first novel with color and vibrancy. The characters are fully formed, each one indelible in the memory of the reader, the setting of Pisgah Ridge vivid enough to be its own character. Some word pictures will live forever in my mind: peanuts in Coke; the location of Sri Lanka: “She held up her right hand flat against the air, as if it were a map. ‘If this would be India, then this,’ she placed her left fist by the lower thumb knuckle of her right hand, ‘is Sri Lanka;’ ” hot lazy days at the Blue Hole, snarled threats, white bedsheets with eye holes cut into them…
The plot is not predictable, but develops in a realistic and unique trajectory. The ending is not what I expected either, and for that I’m thankful, although I wanted to cry like a baby when it was done. I will never forget this story or its impact on me.
I hope there are many more novels coming from this author. Blue Hole Back Home is well worth the read and I recommend it to anyone looking for a strong and memorable story.