In her debut novel, "Blue Hole Back Home", Joy Jordan-Lake has written a story worthy of the word 'masterful'. Based loosely on events from her own teen years, she has crafted a tale that both enraged me and gave me a sense of hope. It did not leave me unchanged.
In the summer of 1979, Shelby Lenoir, known to her friends as 'Turtle', was part of a mangy pack of friends that included her brother Emerson, cousin L.J., best friend Jimbo, and hanger on Welp. As was their custom that summer, they would work hard in the humid heat of South Carolina, cooling off at the local hangout, Blue Hole.
That particular summer, Shelby meets and befriends 'the new girl', a 15 year old girl from Sri Lanka--what the South knows as a girl of color. One trip to the Blue Hole is all it takes to unravel all the Pack knew as calm and good.
Mort Beckwith and his bunch 'don't take kindly to her kind', and set about to shake up the standard of the Pack. What begins as pranks and pokes turns into deadly incidents that point to something more sinister than any of them can imagine.
Each member of the Pack, from Shelby/Turtle to New Girl/Shanna has a role to play, and they play it out to the very end. The question is, what is left for each of them when it's all said and done?
With authentic voice and lyric language, Jordan-Lake's novel reads smoothly and with a leisurely pace, true of Southern literature. She was born to do this, and has an extraordinary gift with words.
The beginning has you pondering, by the middle, you're in love with the Pack...and the end leaves you forever changed. It will take your breath away, have you wanting to reach into the pages to grab some cowards by the scruff of the neck...and cause you to question your own stand on racism, prejudice, and the crimes that accompany both.
I'm awarding "Blue Hole Back Home" the golden bookmark, something I rarely do for a debut novel. I just cannot see Jordan-Lake topping this book...but I'd love to see her try! Do not overlook this masterpiece of Southern fiction!