Saturday, October 20, 2012

Slow Way Home by Michael Morris

When I read Man in the Blue Moon by Michael Morris I knew I would want to read everything he had written.  His writing has been called reminiscent of Harper Lee and he is credited with capturing the essence of the South.  I was not disappointed  by such praise when I read an advanced reader's copy of his latest work, Man in the Blue Moon, but I was even more moved by his earlier title, Slow Way Home set in the 1970s. 

Slow Way Home tells the story of young Brandon whose turbulent life is defined by the arrival and departure of a series of men in his mother's life.  The arrival of a new man brings an emotional high for his mother and a glimmer that this time Brandon may finally have a normal life, but within weeks the reality of alcohol, drugs, or physical violence will dash the young boy's hope.  An explosive parting of ways is inevitable.  When the latest man sets off for Canada, mom Sophie follows after abandoning eight year old Brandon at a Raleigh bus station.  She tells him to find his way to his grandparents and assures him that when times are better, she'll return for him.  Brandon settles into life in the country with his cousins next door and for the first time in his life, he feels safe.  Despite Sophie's destructive and erratic life, he has always felt loved by her, but now he really begins to blossom under his grandparents' care.  His mother returns months later and begins to stalk the farm house watching her son,  leaving Brandon's allegiance torn in opposite directions.  When his mother goes to the court to gain custody of the young boy, she wins despite her earlier abandonment.

Not wanting to see their grandson hurt again, the grandparents secretly take off for Florida, hiding out in a trailer in small fishing village.  Grandpa finds a job at the fishing docks and Grandma works at a local dinner.  Having the new name, Davidson, the family creates a new reality and settle into life in Florida.  Brandon makes friends and joins a local church called God's Hospital.  But not is all Florida sunshine here.  God's Hospital, an integrated church, headed by black Sister Delores, is attacked by an old Klu Klux Klan element.  In the aftermath of the destructive fire, the Davidsons' aliases are uncovered and Brandon's life is again shattered when plans are made to put him in foster care or return him to his mother.

Morris does a wonderful job of capturing Brandon's voice and point of view, from the ordinary days of a carefree child hanging with his new buddy to the emotional low of shoplifting with his mother to survive.
Especially powerful are the times when his reality recedes and instead he sees a vision of Jesus, as he hears a litany of his grandmother's and Sister Delores' words, "You are loved.  Remember, you are loved by many."

Reviews on Amazon seemed mixed for this title, but all reviews on Barnes and Noble rated the novel a 5.
I would highly recommend this title to readers of Christian novels, mainly because it goes beyond the typical plots and viewpoints giving us grittier but more realistic views than most offerings.  I was slightly disappointed in the ending, but feel it is an ending which offers room for lively discussions.
I love it when authors share some insight into their creative process. which Morris does at the end of this title. Morris reveals that traveling by a small, but densely packed trailer park in southern Florida, he thought that it would be easily to hide out in such a place, basically living an anonymous life.  He stowed that thought nugget away until the idea for Slow Way Home germinated.  Check out Michael Morris's website for summaries of his other titles and for more insight into his writing career. 

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