Thursday, April 17, 2008

ONE MISSISSIPPI by Mark Childress

Mark Childress's One Mississippi is a wild ride, and I loved it, except for the finish. It's the tragicomic story of a teenage boy, Daniel, in culture shock when his family moves from Indiana to Mississippi in the 1970's. His newly integrated high school elects a black prom queen, and that's only the beginning. There is action galore, including a wrecked moving van, a house explosion, a car explosion—you name it. Teen angst, peer pressure, guilty consciences, toxic friendships, and identity issues abound, especially with regard to sexual orientation and race. Amidst all this emotional churning are many scenes that are laugh-out-loud funny, unless you're too young to have seen Sonny and Cher on TV. Childress seems to enjoy taking shots at the religious fanatics, painting them as hypocrites and bigots. The denouement is just like Empire Falls, and I didn't like it in that book either. Did the author plan this finale from the start, or did he paint himself into a corner and have to blast his way out? You decide.

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