Monday, May 11, 2015
My take on: Miss and the Rosa Parks League
I started Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League by Jonathan Odell way back in late December. It took me until yesterday to finish. That's not because it was a bad or difficult book, it's because I was busy .... and I'm such a moody reader. I picked this up, put it down for weeks, picked it back up, finished other books, picked it back up, and put it down for weeks. It was a never-ending cycle until I finally decided it's time to finish.
This is a story set during the pre-Civil rights era in Delphi, Mississippi. Fate draws two women, Vida and Hazel, together. They have more in common than they would like to admit. To Vida, Hazel is a crazy, alcoholic, white woman who is throwing her life away. To Hazel, Vida is the crazy black woman who is paid by her husband, Floyd, to babysit her and her son, Johnny. Neither woman realizes how much pain the other has gone through.
Vida is mourning the loss of her son Nate. Vida's son paid the ultimate sacrifice -- his life -- all due to his father's ignorance and hatred. Vida was raped by the corrupt town sheriff, Billy Dean Brister, who also happens to be white. When he learns that Nate is his son, Billy Dean shot him rather than letting the whole town know he fathered a black child. Levi, the town's unofficial preacher and also Vida's father, tries to teach her that some good will come from all her pain. But when?
Hazel is also mourning the loss of her other son Davie. His death sent Hazel into a deep tailspin. She's spent her entire marriage to Floyd trying to fight in with the upper crust of society. But no one wants to let her into their circle. As Hazel drowns in alcohol, she can't see the damage it's doing to herself and her family. The only time Hazel truly feels free of her problems is behind the wheel. She can hit the open road and just lose herself in the beautiful scenery. But her freedom, literally and figuratively, is taken away after Davie's death. Rather than truly help his wife, Floyd lets her slowly vegetate. He hires Vida to "look" after Hazel a.k.a. shove pills down Hazel's throat.
Neither woman knows how to deal with their pain. How do they move? How can they move on? Johnny is the answer. Whether he meant to or not, he awakens both women. First his mother by convincing her that Vida is plotting against the family. But Vida is wise to their shenanigans. Slowly, both women forge an unlikely friendship that changes not just them, but the entire town. A suspicious disappearance turns race relations upside down. Perhaps Vida and Hazel, with a little help from some new friends, can fix everything.
At its core, this book is about Hazel and Vida's friendship. In the beginning, neither woman truly understood the struggles of the other. Hazel was often ignorant to the privileges she had as a white woman. Despite what others think about her drinking, Hazel can do things that Vida can't. In contrast, it took time for Vida to realize that Hazel isn't the enemy just because she's white. At 400+ pages, I often wondered where this book was going. Sometimes, I'm just so gung-ho for a fast-paced book. I was waiting for a big reveal, but it wasn't necessary there. This book was just right and well worth taking the time to read. I just had to go with the flow.
Note: I received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.