A courthouse shooting leads a young reporter to uncover the long story of race and power in his small town and the relationship between the white sheriff and the black man who "whipped children" to keep order—in the final novella by the beloved Ernest J. Gaines.
After Brady Sims pulls out a gun in a courtroom and shoots his own son, who has just been convicted of robbery and murder, he asks only to be allowed two hours before he'll give himself up to the sheriff. When the editor of the local newspaper asks his cub reporter to dig up a "human interest" story about Brady, he heads for the town's barbershop. It is the barbers and the regulars who hang out there who narrate with empathy, sadness, humor, and a profound understanding the life story of Brady Sims—an honorable, just, and unsparing man who with his tough love had been handed the task of keeping the black children of Bayonne, Louisiana in line to protect them from the unjust world in which they lived. And when his own son makes a fateful mistake, it is up to Brady to carry out the necessary reckoning. In the telling, we learn the story of a small southern town, divided by race, and the black community struggling to survive even as many of its inhabitants head off northwards during the Great Migration.
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Good, but wanted more character development
Let me start by saying that Ernest Gaines is one of my all-time favorite authors. So, I’ve read several of his books and I’m a big fan. I also liked this book. It was a good, quick read with a great plot and important themes, but I felt like I needed more. Because you pretty much know what happens in the book from the first few pages, I thought the rest of the book would be spent exploring/illustrating the title character’s motivation for his actions. We’re told what they are through other characters somewhat threadbare anecdotes about the character, but the book never seems to actually illustrate or delve into why the character is who he is. So, it’s a good, light read, but I was left somewhat unsatisfied.