Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This companion novel to Spite Fences examines another corner of Kinship, Ga., in the early '60s, this time focusing on the ironically named Happy Trails trailer camp. Fifteen-year-old Pert Wilson has always struggled, as has her brother, a high school drop-out, and their mother, who has raised the two children alone. Pert feels caught in a rut until her long-absent father unexpectedly returns, talking of exciting prospects for them all. Intoxicated by her father's charisma, Pert is taken wholly by surprise when his new business ventures cause pain for nearly everyone in the camp. Less expansive than its predecessor, which had a strong civil-rights theme, this lower-key novel deals mostly with personal issues. Pert and her neighbors live in their own closed world, and although the experience is claustrophobic at times"Living in tiny places with names like Kozy Koach or Spartanette reminded you that you wasn't yet living a real life, only a miniature version of it"proximity breeds a special form of "kinship" between the neighbors. Reinforcing this motif, Krisher alternates Pert's narration with brief sections in the voices of other "trailerites"; while these sections often offer important insights and perspectives, the voices sometimes strain to be distinctive. Pert, however, is wholly convincing, and as Krisher slides into her shoes, she takes readers far from the beaten path. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 6-10Set in the same Georgia town as Spite Fences (Delacorte, 1994) in 1961, this novel explores family and community relationships through the narrative of Pert Wilson. While her older brother, Jimmy, longs for wheels to ride around town, 15-year-old Pert wants them to escape. The only Roman Catholic family in Kinship, the Wilsons all work a number of jobs and never quite make ends meet. Although Pert loves her supportive mother and helpful trailer-park neighbors, she feel restless and ready for change. When her long-absent father shows up with presents and promises, Pert can't understand how the rest of the family can resist his charms. When the mayor seems determined to zone away the only home the Wilsons can afford, Pert's daddy offers solutions for which her neighbors are willing to hand over their life savings. After Jimmy's fiance asks her help in aborting her baby, Pert is forced to compromise her beliefs, and tension builds as Pert's father's words and actions don't quite match up. The plot is nicely paced, and both the oddball and the ordinary characters seem real and reasonable. Although Pert always remains the focus of the story, the viewpoint sometimes rotates to one of her neighbors: an emotionally damaged Korean War vet; a retired school marm; and the spell-weaving, book-making (we're not talking binderies here) Weevils. Unmired by circumstance, Pert keeps a positive attitude toward life, lacing her unvarnished views of the town with wonderfully ironic, laugh-out-loud humor even while making heartbreaking discoveries. A rich and remarkable story.Cindy Darling Codell, Clark Middle School, Winchester, KY
Read an Excerpt
"You promised! You swore not to tell my family! I've been working hard to keep you folks in the park and it ain't been easy." I thought of how much I had hurt Miss Mulch, the Wilsons' best friend for all these years.
"Didn't, " said Ida, picking the patties off the dirty floor and setting them back on the platter. "Didn't break our promise!"
Ora picked up the fork he'd been using to mash the yams.
He pointed it at me. "Promise was about family, chile."
I didn't understand.
"We's promised not to tell no one in your family," Ora Weevil said. "Your daddy's just kin. He ain't family."
I grabbed Ora Weevil by his red pajamas and shook. "What are you talking about? He's my daddy. I've got his blood in my veins. I look like him, I talk like him, I act like him. What do you mean, he ain't family?"
Ida Weevil pulled me off of him. She stuck her face right next to mine. I could smell her stale breath. "You looka here, Missy. They's a powerful difference between family and kin, hear?"
I heard. I just didn't understand.
"You needs to know who your real family is, Missy. Family ain't the same thing as kin."