Monday, April 10, 2017

Mailbox Monday ~ Little Boy Lost

Little Boy Lost ~ by J. D. Trafford, 2017, fiction (Missouri), 9.5/10
Attorney Justin Glass’s practice, housed in a shabby office on the north side of Saint Louis, isn’t doing so well that he can afford to work for free.  But when eight-year-old Tanisha Walker offers him a jar full of change to find her missing brother, he doesn’t have the heart to turn her away.  Justin had hoped to find the boy alive and well, but all that was found of Devon Walker was his brutally murdered body — and the bodies of twelve other African American teenagers, all discarded like trash in a mass grave.  Each had been reported missing, and none had been investigated.  As simmering racial tensions explode into violence, Justin finds himself caught in the tide. And as he gives voice to the discontent plaguing the city’s forgotten and ignored, he vows to search for the killer who preys upon them.
This ARC (Advanced Reading Copy) arrived in my mailbox last week, and I started reading it the next morning.  Although it's 329 pages long, I finished it before going to bed that night.  Maybe it's that I have lived for almost three years in St. Louis, the setting of the book.  I was pleased when I recognized a location and just as pleased when I googled a location and looked at Google's "street view" to visualize the locale.
"We walked down two blocks from Crown Candy to my office on the corner of Fourteenth and Warren" (p. 32).
Sure enough, Crown Candy is exactly two blocks from a couple of buildings that could house a lawyer's office.  When I mentioned Crown Candy to my friend Barbara, she said we'll have to go there to eat.  Our friend Donna agreed.
"As the rest of the city emptied out, heading to South County and Saint Charles, I crossed Forty against traffic and drove back over to the Northside" (p. 38).
When I moved here, I quickly learned that the locals still say "Forty" instead of I-64.  It's both, but when I hear "Forty," I think of I-40 going East and West across Tennessee from Nashville to Knoxville.  In St. Louis, "Forty" is the highway that was there before the Interstates were built.  One local told me today, "I always say '40-64' so everyone understands."  Yep, I've learned that, too.  The author mentions...
  • "...the Central West End's beautiful brownstones" (p. 72).
  • "...eating ice cream from the Clementine's Creamery on Lafayette Square" (p. 120).
  • "Castlewood State Park..." (p. 139).
  • "...dinner together on The Hill..." (p. 166).  I've been there, done that.
  • "...McKnight Road..." (p. 175).
  • " off the highway in Clayton..." (p. 211).
  • "...Carl's Drive In off Manchester Road" (p. 212).
  • "...North Florissant..." (p. 226).
  • "...Bellefontaine Cemetery..." (p. 240).
  • "...Page Boulevard..." (p. 272).
  • "...Bosnia..." (p. 274).  A lot of Bosnian refugees settled in St. Louis.
  • "...Tower Grove Park" (p. 286).
  • "Traffic on Forty wasn't too bad.  I took the Jefferson exit off the highway..." (p. 289).  I've taken that exit to go visit a friend.
  • "Then I crossed an imaginary line, and everything dimmed.  Cafe's were replaced with dirty fast-food restaurants.  Churches went from majestic to pop-up, and the brownstones devolved into a mix of questionable housing, pawn shops, and dollar stores" (p. 72).
Aha!  That "imaginary line" has a name here in St. Louis:  the Delmar Divide.  Delmar Boulevard runs from the downtown area through the Delmar Loop, an area of shops and restaurants where an eclectic group of people hang out, from elderly folk like me to college kids and parents with children.  The Delmar Divide apparently ends at the Loop, and I live two or three miles west of there, near the western end of Delmar Boulevard.  I can see Delmar from my window.
My father took a deep breath, and then he ... turned around.  "I fought the battle over segregated lunch counters and the right to vote, but this is different."  He pointed at me, lying injured in bed, my face swollen and cut.  "The White Only signs have been taken down, but they're still there.  This is your fight now" (p. 57).
The story is about racism, so this quote feels loaded to me.  I moved to St. Louis in June 2014, a couple of months before Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson.  That area is, of course, north of Delmar.  The police in the story are "worried about another Ferguson" (p. 262).  It's a divided city, so this remark by one of the characters in the novel about a cemetery is on target:
"Truly sad that the most diverse neighborhood in our city is one for the dead and not the living" (p. 242).
And yet there was humor in the book, too.  Like this from the narrator, who is a single parent:
"Like all middle-aged men who were about to have a romantic liaison in a fancy hotel, I called my mother first to ask for permission" (p. 236).
I rated it 9.5 out of 10 and definitely recommend this book, but the sad news is that it won't be published until July 18.


Helen's Book Blog said...

Boy this looks like a good one and somehow quite timely. I'll add it to my TBR list right now

Bonnie Jacobs said...

My friend Barbara is having trouble commenting, so she sent me this comment about the Bosnians in St. Louis. She thinks the author put them in the wrong part of town, but I'll have to see if she can give me a page number. Here's her comment:

"There are more Bosnians per capita in SOUTH st Louis than anywhere outside of Bosnia."