Monday, June 19, 2017

Review: Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League

Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League
by Jonathan Odell

Why did you choose this book? The story sounded interesting  
When did you read this book? May 2017
Who should read this book? Readers who enjoy historical fictions or enjoyed The Help
Source: library book fair
My Rating: ✰✰✰✰   4 Stars

Here is a synopsis of Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League from Goodreads

Set in pre-Civil Rights Mississippi, Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League is the story of two young mothers, Hazel and Vida one wealthy and white and the other poor and black who have only two things in common: the devastating loss of their children, and a deep and abiding loathing for one another. Embittered and distrusting, Vida is harassed by Delphi's racist sheriff and haunted by the son she lost to the world. Hazel, too, has lost a son and can't keep a grip on her fractured life. After drunkenly crashing her car into a manger scene while gunning for the baby Jesus, Hazel is sedated and bed-ridden. Hazel s husband hires Vida to keep tabs on his unpredictable wife and to care for his sole surviving son. Forced to spend time together with no one else to rely on, the two women find they have more in common than they thought, and together they turn the town on its head. It is the story of a town, a people, and a culture on the verge of a great change that begins with small things, like unexpected friendship."

My Review

This book has been compared to The Help by Kathryn Stockett, but other than the facts that they are set in the south just as the Civil Rights era is beginning and are stories of African American maids working in white households, I don’t think they are really similar at all. While I enjoyed both books, I think this one is a more intense story, with more historical perspective about the Civil Rights era in Mississippi. There was also an element of mystery.

Hazel is a young white woman who grew up in poverty in the backwoods. While her husband was also poor, upon returning from the war he is determined to ‘make it’ in the world. The settle in Delphi, Mississippi and he works his way up until he can buy Hazel the house of his dreams in the wealthy section of town. However, despite her new-found wealth and her attempts to fit in, she finds she can’t overcome her disadvantaged background and is not accepted by her wealthy neighbors. Eventually her husband hires Vida, a young black woman who has lost the status she once held as the daughter of the local preacher. Both women carry resentments and distrust.

While I enjoyed the book, the story got off to a slow start for me. It kept me entertained, and I never thought about setting it aside, but it took awhile before I could see where the story was headed.  Suddenly about halfway through, something happened and the story ‘clicked’ for me. I want to repeat though, that even though I couldn’t see where things were headed, I never found the story boring. More than the story clicking, I think I finally understood the characters and was able to make a connection to them.

One thing I really appreciated in this story is the historical context of the 1950s. Rosa Parks was a big part of the story, even though the character never actually appeared in the story, and an inspiration to the characters in the story. Blacks were oppressed and women were ignored, and both were expected to keep in their places, and when they didn’t, the consequences were severe.

This would make a great book club selection with the obvious discussions about racism and how the role of women has changed in the last half century. There are author’s notes and discussion questions included in the book. Visit the author’s website for an excerpt and more information.  
I received a copy of this book as a winner of a contest on Darlene’s  book blog, Peeking Between The Pages.
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1 comment:

  1. This book has been on my shelves for a long time and your review made me want to move it up my to-read list. It sounds like it would make me think :)