Following the tragic death of his parents a young boy goes to live with the grandparents he barely knows in Round Rock, Tennessee.
This book appealed to me because of my literary obsession with the 1940’s, so I was thrilled to receive an advance review copy from NetGalley/Greenleaf Book Group! I’m thrilled that Little Joe is the first in a four-part series by Michael E Glassock III; the second (The Trial of Dr Kate) is now sat at the top of my ‘to be read’ pile.
The writing is just fabulous. From the offset I was sucked in. I loved the ‘small town’ shenanigans and Southern charm dripping from each and every page. I generally adore anything even slightly historical and this book combine two of my firm favourites – World War II and racial tensions in the American South, but both are dealt with in an extremely subtle way; they provide context to Little Joe’s story, rather than being the full focus of the novel.
Plot-wise there was a good balance between quaint, amusing moments, shared frustrations and pure heartbreak. Glassock seems to have the knack of making you feel what his characters feel. All in all it’s a very well-rounded read; you can empathise with both the troublesome child and the strict grandparents… which is a real novelty. With most books you definitely feel like you’re on someone’s side. Having said that, my favourite characters had to be Joe’s grandparents. They had quirks, they had layers, and they had an air of mystery lingering around them. Joe may be curious about their secrets, but so are we.
I thought the ending left a lot to be desired. The novel as a whole was consistently steady-paced until the final chapter. The ‘big event’ was massively anti-climactic (and quite out-of-place considering the character development that had gone on). And then the final scene was just pointless, it seemed almost like an afterthought to be honest, as though the author just wanted to write something to close the book. I would have preferred it to end a little more decisively.
You loved Boy by Roald Dahl. I’d also recommend it to anybody who loves something a bit retro, or tends to go for books with quirky characters. If, like me, you don’t really like reading novels told from a child’s perspective, this one might just change your mind…