Sunday, August 28, 2016

A Pearl for Kizzy by Ed Bethune

This book is by an Arkansas author and is the author that I heard speak last week. I thought this novel was well told and had great character development.  If you don't have any prior knowledge of "river rats" or life living on the river, you will after reading this book.  You will feel yourself pulling for the main character, Kizzy, and admire her determination.  My only "issue" with the book is that I would necessarily label it a WWII novel.  The setting is during WWII time, but at the heart of it, it is the story of a young girl growing up in poverty as a river rat on the river.  It is definitely worth your time to read and I think if you are from Arkansas or the South, you might even enjoy it more.  It was neat to see my hometown of Newport mentioned and the White River Monster that we all grew up looking for every time we crossed the White River Bridge.  

Summary from
Kizzy, a spirited child, lives with her family on a one-room ramshackle houseboat in Big Pearl, Arkansas. They fish, dig for mussels, look for pearls, and sell the shells to the button factory. It is a crude life made harder by the Great Depression, natural disasters, and prejudice. At the onset of World War II, Kizzy befriends a young boy-a refugee from Nazi Germany-and a cultured young woman who encourages her to read and learn from Jane Austen's books. Kizzy yearns for a better life, but as she comes of age her dream of getting off the river is threatened by the evil Bully Bigshot and his Eugenics Center, a corrupt outfit that wants to rid the world of "river rats" like her through abortion and "better breeding." ... And there is Cormac, the lascivious man Kizzy calls her "make-do stepfather." Kizzy's struggle mimics today's culture war. Daring, but realistic, the novel examines love, pride, compassion, courage, hope, morality, and duty-the things that inform and shape our destiny.

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