Book Review: Mississippi Cotton by Paul Yarbrough
The book, Mississippi Cotton, is the first novel written by author Paul H. Yarbrough. The author was born and raised in Mississippi. It is his knowledge of the state's history, terrain, culture and the secrets of the land that adds such depth and richness to this southern novel.
The book is set in the 1950s - a time when the battle for civil rights had not yet taken place and the Civil War was still on the hearts and minds of the Mississippi people.
Mississippi Cotton is a well-told story about three boys in their youth, a history lesson and a mystery all wrapped into one.
I'll be honest - I wasn't too crazy about the cover of this book and of course the first thought that came to mind was that I shouldn't judge a book by its cover. And I'm glad I didn't.
It didn't take me long to forget about the cover with the silhouette of the three boys in the middle of a cotton field and get absorbed in young Jake Conner's bus ride to Cotton City. It was here that he was going to stay with his cousins, have a life-changing experience and meet people that he would remember for a lifetime.
The book takes place in the heart of the Mississippi Delta and contains history that I'll admit I never learned in school. I really did learn and believe that the Civil War was all about ending slavery and I thought most everyone liked President Abraham Lincoln.
Because of what I learned about southern history, a few of the statements in the book were a real eye-opener for this northern girl. Granted the story is fiction, but I'm sure some southerners feel the same way about Abraham Lincoln as Jake's dad did.
A Murder Mystery
Before even arriving in Cotton City, Jake had already known about the dead body that was found in the river - a white body found by two black men. He had heard some talk about it during one of his stops on his bus ride to Cotton City.
When he finally reaches his destination, young Jake and his two adventurous cousins find themselves right smack in the middle of the mystery of the man who had been shot with a .22 and found in the river. He would also learn some very fascinating facts about the people of Cotton City but what he didn't know was that he knew the person who had committed the crime.
Jake would also become good friends with the main suspect and another man who had taken part in the crime. But besides getting entangled in a murder investigation, Jake, a city boy, would also learn just how hard country life could be in the deep south picking cotton by hand under the hot, blazing sun and relentless heat and humidity. He would grow up and mature during these three weeks faster than at any other time of his youth.
A Really Good Read
All in all, I found the book, Mississippi Cotton a very good read and I would recommend this book to others. First-time novelist, Paul Yarbrough, uses wonderful descriptions of the geography and although I have never been there, I could picture exactly what the Mississippi Delta looked and even felt like.
The author also does a fantastic job at bringing his characters to life. I often found myself laughing at something the young boys said and laughing harder at the punishment they got in return. This book definitely took me back to a simpler place in time where kids were disciplined, they respected their elders and the best times of their lives were spent at the picture show on the weekends and at the river on the hottest of days.
Although things did not work out so well for some of the characters in the story, I found this book refreshing and enlightening and was glad to have read it.