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The Wiregrass: A Novel Paperback – August 4, 2015
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“There are deep southern traditions at work here, of memory, courage, sweetness, and sadness. This is a brave book at the same time it's complex and gentle, and the way it honors a sense of time and place is truly remarkable.”
—David L. Robbins, New York Times best-selling author of Scorched Earth and The Empty Quarter
“Webber has crafted a summer setting that is both magical and dangerous in this profound coming-of-age story. I laughed out loud. I held my breath. I anxiously pressed on for 'just one more page' (page after page, after page) and I cried. She has touched me on many levels in this, her first novel. Its ending has haunted me for days since finishing it. It is a book I'll not soon forget. For this reviewer, The Wiregrass was reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird, Tom Sawyer, and Of Mice and Men, yet all the while it was its very own unique story written with a large measure of tenderness and grace. What a privilege to have the opportunity to read this book that is surely destined to become a best-seller!”
—Lee Ambrose, Story Circle Book Reviews
About the Author
Pam Webber is a nationally certified nurse practitioner and award-winning university-level nursing educator. She has published numerous articles and co-authored four editions of a nursing textbook. Pam resides in Virginia’s Northern Shenandoah Valley with her husband. The Wiregrass is her first novel.
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Let’s start with the obvious: the sense of place in this book is phenomenal. Though I am now living in the South, the Wiregrass region was still unfamiliar to me until Nettie explained that it was both a part of the country [southeastern Alabama, southern Georgia, and the Florida Panhandle] and a type of bristly, razor-sharp grass that gave the region its name. Though I’ve never really been to the true Deep South, Webber’s imagery made the area come alive like other Southern classics [To Kill a Mockingbird, for example]. The author truly transplanted me from my lounge chair [oh yeah–this is a great pool/beach read] to a place far, far away in geography, time, culture, and habits. Lovely.
Another element of this book that made Webber, a first-time novelist, stand out to me was her use of language. Sometimes when novels that focus on children or adolescents, even when written for adults, dumb down the language. Not so with The Wiregrass! Every paragraph, sentence, and word was precise, smart, and interesting. Webber used sensory language to evoke that sense of place mentioned before, and her use of Southern dialogue was great. Nettie’s cousins weren’t just “cousins,” they were “cussins” [for more reasons than one]. Her “Ain’t Pitty” was the key adult shaping Nettie and the cousins’ summer–caring for them, loving them, instructing them, and guiding them through some very good and very bad times. There are countless other examples of language creating place and mood throughout the book. Truthfully for me, that sort of Southern language gets old after awhile… but it does set this book apart and helps show the author’s talent.
There are so many great characters in this novel. I keep asking myself who I was most captivated and engaged by, and I keep coming back to Mitchell. Much of what we learn about him throughout the book comes from others–from Nettie, from Ain’t Pitty, from people around Crystal Springs. You’ll have to read it and see why he’s so captivating. His story is one of beauty and utter heartbreak. While the official “description” of the book casts his relationship with Nettie as a romance, I would have to [slightly] disagree. Yes, they are romantically involved… but you have to remember they’re kids! I didn’t see their romance play out as much more than intense friendship, so don’t go into this book expecting a romance novel because you won’t find it.
Aside from the great writing and characters, I loved reading about all the childhood rituals that Nettie and her cousins shared. Some innocent… and some not-so-innocent [think TP-ing and other ways kids get into trouble during those hot summer days and nights]. Age-wise in the middle of the group, Nettie bridges the gap between the older and younger cousins in a fun way. You can see her grow up right before her eyes, even without the Mitchell storyline. I could see my childhood summers in these stories… a fun time to reminisce.
Overall, The Wiregrass incorporates mystery and drama, the coming-of-age adolescence angst, explorations of childhood, and so much more. It touches on issues important to past, present, and future America such as class, race, etc. without making too much of a statement. The sadness/harsh reality/mystery element in all its intensity does not spoil the sweet childhood memories that Nettie and her cousins build, but it does change things. I won’t spoil the ending, but it IS truly poignant and a little surprising. I could hardly put the book down! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did! I won’t tell you to not read this book in the fall or winter or spring… but it’s truly a summer read so check it out now! :)
Disclosure: I received an advanced copy of this book from Webber’s publicist, Stephanie Barko. However, I was not required to write a positive review. The thoughts expressed above are entirely my own. Thanks for the chance to read this book!
This I a humorous tale of children and their perception of the adult world until pure evil pokes up its ugly head. I gave it only three stars because it was fairly predictable, way too preachy and although descriptions of the places and scenery was nice and often paramount to the story it was often over the top. Otherwise an enjoyable read. Pretty much a Christian young adult tale.