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A HEART DIVIDED

Page history last edited by RichiesPicks 13 years, 3 months ago

18 April 2004  A HEART DIVIDED by Cherie Bennett and Jeff Gottesfeld, Random House/Delacorte, March 2004, ISBN: 0-385-32749-8; 0-385-90039-2

 

By the time I finished reading RAZZLE three summers ago, the intensity of my hatred toward Kenyon Baker's manipulative and clueless mom compelled me to pass a perfectly beautiful day at the beach totally obsessing about what she had done to him and was actually the catalyst for my modest attempt at writing a contemporary YA novel.

 

Halfway through A HEART DIVIDED, those memories of hating Mrs. Baker were coming back to me full blast, and for that I nominate Jackson Redford's mom for 2004's Insidious Mother of the Year.

 

A HEART DIVIDED is the story of Kate Pride, a Jersey Girl and aspiring playwright. Thanks to her father's getting his dream job, Kate is forced to leave her friends and her Manhattan-based Young Playwrights Showcase program in order to move with her family to the small town of Redford, Tennessee. Arriving just in time for her junior year of high school, Kate is plopped down--Northern liberal sensibilities and all--into the midst of a townwide controversy concerning her school and the Confederate battle flag. And upon first meeting him--under a library desk--Kate immediately falls head over heels for the aforementioned Jackson (Jack) Redford. Jack--enlightened, gorgeous, and a drama aficionado--turns out to be the last surviving male descendent of both the town's slaveholding namesake and a long line of Redford men who'd proudly served in the military.

 

You can imagine where Jackson's Southern-born and bred mother fits into this mix.

 

Whether it's Kate's attempt at creating a relationship with Jack, her stepping into the middle of the flag debate, or her struggle to compose a meaningful play about the deepening controversy, she becomes immersed in the baggage of a community where so many people--young and old--are descended from either Confederate soldiers or slaves, and also from recent generations whose bitter division during the Civil Rights Movement has left Redford with some even less healed wounds.

 

" 'Back in those days, Lucas Roberts was a student at Fisk. He and nine other students walked right through the front door of Jimmy Mack's. The boys wore jackets and ties. The girls wore lovely dresses. They took seats at two tables and waited. All the white people were served. But those ten young people were ignored. So they sat there all day, in silence.'

"I stopped her, checked my tape to be sure it was recording properly, and then restarted it. 'Go on, please,' I urged her. 'What happened?'

" 'Well, when Jimmy Mack III closed at the end of the day, these young students came outside to find white folks lined up on the sidewalk cursing them and waving the Confederate battle flag.

"My hand flew to my mouth. 'That's disgusting.'

" 'Yes. It is. But in the long run, the black students won.'

 

It was only earlier this month that I read an Associated Press article about a town in Virginia whose school board's policy preventing children from wearing clothes depicting the Confederate flag to school had resulted in suspensions, statewide protests, and livid parents demanding that their children be given the right to celebrate their ancestry.

 

" 'I'm ashamed that my ancestors owned slaves. But that doesn't mean I'm not still proud of them, because I am. They were honorable men, for a different time. And they put love of country ahead of whatever they wanted for themselves. Can you understand that? Can you?' "

 

The authors certainly made the most of their decade of living in Nashville to create a spectrum of complex characters and believable dialogue. They have now adapted this story for the stage, and I'd sure love to have the opportunity to see one of the productions that is already scheduled.

 

A HEART DIVIDED is a provocative and satisfying book that will inspire passionate debate--both above and below the Mason-Dixon line--about racial and regional issues and the attendant pain that continues to remain a part of our nation's character.

 

Richie Partington

http://richiespicks.com

BudNotBuddy@aol.com

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