Tom and Son Jesus, two 12-year-old boys--one black and one white born the same hour of the same day--are best friends, bound by deep ties and who spend their days dreaming, fishing, and trying to escape work. But their fun comes to an abrupt halt when they discover a human bone, which later turns out to be part of the skeletal remains of Son Jesus' long missing father. As sheriff Frank Rucker, a World War II hero, begins an investigation into remains, he unmasks the racially motivated killer known only as Pegleg. The sheriff's findings divide the people of Overton County, forcing a surprising conclusion--or beginning of justice.
Set in the 1940s and using the relationships of two boys--one black and the other white--as a springboard for the begining of desegregation in the South, The Runaway examines the joys, sorrows, conflicts, and racial disharmony of their historical biased environment.
Even the most devoted among Kay's faithful fans, those who are awaiting a successor to To Dance with the White Dog, will have difficulty plodding through the forced prose in this overwritten tale of racial violence in rural north Georgia during the late 1940s. Readers who stick out the purple early chapters (dogs, the night breeze and gray light all manage to "slither") will be somewhat relieved to discover an engaging, if derivative, story lurking here. Kay enlists ghosts of Huck Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird and God's Little Acre--along with a white-turbaned voodoo priestess called Conjure Woman--in a brave, doomed attempt at country pathos. When two inseparable 12-year-old boys--one white, one black--stumble onto a human leg bone sticking out of a sawdust pile, WWII hero Sheriff Frank Rucker is obliged to probe the unsolved murders of three black men--murders long attributed to a near-mythical masked phantom known in local lore only as Pegleg. Meanwhile, as racial hatred, economic and sexual exploitation and rising social consciousness erupt into rape and more murder, they threaten the sheriff's shy romance with the seductive widow of one of the suspects. Even once the plot gets underway, the writing is inflated and grandiose, and after a climactic, Grisham-esque courtroom scene helps fulfill the Conjure Woman's prophecy, Kay has left few cliches of the popular Southern novel unabused. Author tour.