This story takes place in rural Mississippi, starting in the 1970's. Larry Ott is a white, shy boy, a constant disappointment to his father. He befriends Silas "32" Jones, a black boy that lives with his mother in a shack on Larry's father's land. But after Larry is accused of murdering a girl that disappeared and Silas goes off to college, their friendship ends. Twenty-plus years later, Silas is the town constable and Larry lives a solitary existence, ostracized by the community though never convicted of the girl's murder. Another girl has disappeared, Larry is a suspect and Silas is no longer able to ignore his former friend.
This literary suspense novel was riveting! It moves fluidly between past and present, giving us bits of information but never enough to draw conclusions until the end. Both Larry and Silas are very complex characters. Despite what Larry is suspected of doing, he comes across as very sympathetic and sad. He was considered a 'weirdo' as a child and the cloud of suspicion that hangs over him does not help him as an adult. His childhood friendship with Silas was secret due to race issues and the now adult and popular Silas does not want to admit to having once been friendly with 'scary Larry' as he is now known. All the characters are well-written, well-developed and the writing sharp and descriptive of a small Southern town. Though part mystery, it is also about friendship and secrets and never leaving your past behind.
I really, really enjoyed this novel, whose title is taken from a rhyme that was used to teach children how to spell Mississippi. This is one of those books that is so good you want to put it down so you can make it last longer. Unfortunately, I was way to hooked to do that. Instead, I will just have to read more by this fantastic author.
I feel like I have been on a streak of great reads lately and this is no exception. my rating- 5/5