Book Review: In CLOVER Peach Trees Boom and Yellow Jackets Sting

Dori Sanders, Clover (New York: Fawcett Columbine by arrangement with Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 1990)

None of the four-leaf variety's luck rubbed off on poor little 10-year-old Clover Hill, the main character of Dori Sanders' first novel.

Clover's mama died while she was just a baby, then she lived with her granddaddy until he died too. She still had her aunt and uncle living next door, and her father, Gaten, but then he had gone and died on the way home from marrying a white woman.

From the mouth of Clover comes a tale of death, love, remarriage and racism, a tale as fresh and honest as only a child can tell it.

"I guess you would call me a scared little girl, all alone with a scared woman," Clover says, and she proceeds into the unusual relationship with the curiosity and the horse sense of a country girl.

Set in Round Hill, South Caroina, Clover delivers the reader into a rural world of tractors, yellow jackets, lightning bugs and mason jars filled with fresh cut flowers. Round Hill is a peach farming community similar to the one where the author grew up raising Georgia Belle and Elberta peaches on one of the oldest black-owned peach farms in York County.


Sanders' setting comes alive through the innocent wonder of a child who appreciates the diamonds that sparkle on a lawn before the dew melts and from the perspective of all the nooks and crannies where a small person can hide to listen to grown-up conversations.

Clover has a high IQ, and she's smart enough to know some things that even Sara Kate, her new step-mother, doesn't know.

"Like, for instance, among our people in Round Hill you don't go asking a widow if she likes the kind of flowers you want to put on her dead husband's grave. You just do it. The dead belong to all to remember."

In Clover the reader can explore boundaries of race and culture by removing some of the grown-up prejudices and biases learned through the years. After retreating to the age of ten with Clover, readers might decide to switch sides about things.

"I'm beginning to see I have to speak out for Sara Kate. My aunt and uncle simply can't go on always putting the woman down....Yes, I'm taking Sara Kate's side right now. But they can't seem to understand that just because I am, it still doesn't mean I am turning against them."

For Clover, lessons in love and loyalty come from plain old practice, and she wishes everyone could understand life as easily as she does. "Why can't they see when you live with someone and they aren't mean or nothing they kind of grow on you?"

Interracial marriage, especially in a rural community, is too often a controversial subject reeking with hate. Clover reminds racists of all colors that love, hurt and life are more than skin deep.

Clover's situation seems the worse possible scenario: the child is left to be raised by a step parent of another race. But from her perspective, what really matters is teaching Sara Kate to make grits so they are edible and making sure her different ways don't hurt anyones feelings, like when she removed the plastic flowers from Gaten's grave.

Out of vivid settings, realistic characterizaions, and entertaining narrative, readers will certainly find valuable lessons in Sanders' novel, and they should not worry about falling asleep during the sermon. Ten-year-olds don't preach; they simply tell it like it is.


Copyright Dineane Whitaker 2008 - Please do not copy and paste this article, but feel free to post a link using this url:

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DonnaCSmith 8 years ago from Central North Carolina

Great review. I read Clover, and loved it. A very "true" book.

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