- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Southeast Missouri State Univ Press (September 1, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0972430474
- ISBN-13: 978-0972430470
- Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,074,153 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Seven Laurels: A Novel
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Set in a small community between Montgomery and Birmingham, this first novel brings home the historic struggle for civil rights through the personal story of one man and his family from the 1950s onward. Brewster McAtee hears all about the political ferment of the times--the protests, sit-ins, and assassinations--but he just wants to buy his own land, make a success of his woodcraft business, and raise his family: "He had plenty to keep himself busy here in his own shed." But when he registers to vote, his business is set on fire. The KKK is always there, even in the next generation, still a menace right next door, and Brewster's racist neighbor, "bent with age and cruelty," comes for Brewster's brilliant, gifted son. That gorgeous son is just too saintly to be true, but then we are seeing him through his father's eyes, in adoration and anguish. It's the truth of Brewster's viewpoint, the daily details of work and family, that gives this docu-novel its searing power. Winner of the James Jones First Novel Award. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
A fine, powerful, and beautifully written story about not only Brewster McAtee but also about us: Americans and human beings. -- Silas House, author of A Parchment of Leaves
Flat-out beautiful writing fills this rich, full, satisfying novel. -- Brad Watson, author of Last Days of the Dog-Men
Parker is a compelling writer--her characters will live on in your heart long after you turn the last page. -- Sena Jeter Naslund, author, Four Spirits
Seven Laurels achieves something refreshing, a story of a black man whose shifting personal fortunes parallel the Civil Rights Movement. -- Wesley Brown
The truth of Brewsters viewpoint, the daily details of work and family, gives this docu-novel its searing power. -- Booklist, April, 2004
This marvelous first novel clearly defines Linda Busby Parker as a brave new voice of the South. -- Melinda Haynes, author, Mother of Pearl
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Top Customer Reviews
Seven Laurels is an emotional and compelling tale that traverses the life of Brewster McAtee, a strong and gifted African-American living and surviving in Alabama through the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and into the 1980s. Flashbacks reveal Brewster's childhood and adolescence, and all the obstacles he overcomes to develop into a land-owning master carpenter raising a family in the South.
Readers follow Brewster as works to save enough money to buy land and build a home. We meet the girl of his dreams and watch as he tries to win her love and measure up to her father's expectations. We see him become a father, then a grandfather, all in a hostile time and place that seems to actively work against him on occasion.
The breadth and depth of human emotion and potential are displayed by various characters in the novel. The love and support of family contrast an irrational hated and separation by skin color. The kindness and compassion of an elderly Dutch immigrant are juxtaposed with the blind prejudice and hatred of a poor, ignorant white man who lives in a tiny shack near Brewster's land.
Race and prejudice are key themes in the novel. Brewster works every minute of his life to overcome the stereotypes surrounding black men. Scene after scene portrays the unjust practices perpetuated by white people. Decent education, voter registration, buying land, a home, even a car were privileges not readily extended to blacks. Major civil rights events-the bus boycott, Malcolm X's speeches and murder, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s speeches and murder, formation of the NAACP and many more-affect Brewster and his family in a variety of ways.
This novel is not just about race and prejudice, however. It's about family, growth and life. It's about church suppers, birthday cakes, piano lessons, wood carving. It's about perseverance through adversity, patience and understanding, pride in the accomplishments of people you care about.
That is not to say the novel is always rosy or that things work out all the time. They don't. As much as this is a story of triumph, it is also one of defeat. Deaths and accidents occur. Things don't always work out as they should. The point of this whole experience, however, is to realize what can be accomplished in spite of destruction and tragedy. The novel is complex and full, but the straightforward description and conversational tone make the beautiful language easy to read.
The novel has won the James Jones First Novel Award, and deservedly so. I encourage everyone to put it on their summer reading lists.
Seven Laurels is the story of one man's life, and it is a life you won't soon forget. All of the characters in the book--Brewster, Marlenna, Laurel, Tee, Matthew, Travis Peets--whether good or evil, will stick in your memory a long time.
Have a box of kleenex handy, as there are moments of heart-rending pain and searing joy in Seven Laurels. This is a wonderful book, one to read, savor, and share with family and friends.