Out of the Night That Covers Me

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9780446527514: Out of the Night That Covers Me
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A white boy living with a poor and abusive sharecropper uncle and an unusual black man become unlikely friends in this novel set in 1950s Alabama. By the author of My Last Days as Roy Rogers. 75,000 first printing.

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Review:

Out of the Night That Covers Me takes place a decade before the civil rights movement, but the spirit of the coming upheaval hangs over its pages as heavily as the humidity of an Alabama summer. Pat Cunningham Devoto's second novel revolves around two characters: John McMillan, a precocious, sheltered 8-year-old sent to live with poor relations after his mother's death, and Tuway, an African American with a foot in both the black and white worlds. Their stories intersect when the powerful Judge Vance takes an interest in John. He brings the boy to work at the Planters and Merchants Bank of Lower Peach Tree, where the mysteriously disfigured Tuway acts as his assistant. The judge, we soon learn, is no judge at all. Instead, his title is an allusion to his economic omnipotence: "He the one says if you get a crop loan or not. Round here, if you gets a crop loan, you can make it, and if you don't, you might just as well go on off down the road."

A suspiciously large number of black families have done just that, defaulting on debts and fleeing Alabama's cotton fields for the factories of Chicago. But who provides the money and means for their flight? As John learns more about the financial and political intrigues of Lower Peach Tree, he dreams of making his own escape from his abusive new family. The events that follow forge an unlikely alliance between the silent, wounded black man and the equally wounded orphan--and test their courage in unexpected ways.

As skillfully as Devoto evokes time and place, her novel is not without flaws. John's voice, for example, tends toward the irritatingly precious, and the writing sometimes falls flat. Yet the author movingly portrays the ways poverty can both pinch lives into meanness (witness the case of John's alcoholic Uncle Luther) and challenge people to face their problems together, as in the all-black community known as the Bend. If this juxtaposition of violence and cooperation seems a little, well, black and white, that's part of the book's charm; its moral sureties belong to a time when good and evil were as easy to distinguish in life as they are in fiction. --Chloe Byrne

From AudioFile:

Eight-year-old John Gallatin McMillan III's mother has just died, and so he finds himself living with his aunt and her family in rural Alabama. John's new life is replete with hard work in the cotton fields, hoeing and weeding in the hot sun, and interaction with poor blacks and even poorer whites. John's story is interspersed with a disconnected second theme, which disconcertingly interrupts the flow of the story. Pat Cunningham Devoto's heavy Southern accents require attentiveness on the part of the listener. Devoto's tongue clicks and slow enunciation are distracting at first, but eventually they smooth into the background as the story takes hold and John learns to flourish in the South. M.B.K. © AudioFile 2001, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780446678025: Out of the Night That Covers Me

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ISBN 10:  0446678023 ISBN 13:  9780446678025
Publisher: Warner Books, 2001
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9781587240959: Out of the Night That Covers Me

Wheele..., 2001
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9780759500587: Out of the Night That Covers Me

Compan..., 2001
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