Red Clay Suzie

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This sweet coming-of-age novel absolutely knocked the wind right out of me in the best way possible. Set in rural Georgia during the ’60s and ’70s, Red Clay Suzie follows a young boy’s journey from the innocence and firsts of childhood to the realizations and subsequent growth of young adulthood. Told in a tender memoir-style narrative, Philbet recounts his experiences growing up in a conservative family in the South as a physically misshapen and gay boy during a time when it was socially unacceptable to be either. Starting from his first memories of spending time with his Grandaddy in the garden as a toddler, Philbet relates a heartfelt account of his green milkshake-fueled childhood and car-obsessed adolescence as he navigates the do’s and don’ts of his family and community while realizing who he is and whom he cares for at his core is at odds with most of what he’s taught to be normal and acceptable. While his mother sews homemade shirts for him to hide his deformity at school, his Grandaddy uses his garden to teach young Philbet that plants, like people, don’t have to look a certain way to have value in the world. Grandaddy’s lessons turn out to be the cornerstone for how Philbet navigates the world as he encounters the realities of homophobia, bullying, racism, and the bittersweet heartbreak of first love when he becomes enraptured by the older boy with a beautiful car that moves in down the road. Reading this book made me remember how emotionally impactful honest storytelling can be. Unlike a few other outsider-type narratives I’ve read, there isn’t an ounce of pretense or judgment to be found; the characters aren’t cast as heroes or villains; they simply are. I hesitate even to call the folks in this novel characters because you can almost feel them speaking to you through the page; all of their emotions, thoughts, and shortcomings laid bare in such a way that they could be people you already know and love. Lofton’s descriptive prose is spellbinding; having never been to Georgia myself, I feel like I now know exactly what the air tastes like and how the red clay feels beneath my fingers in the garden. Taken together, the author has created an almost impressionist masterpiece of inner machinations and sensory experiences that leave you pleasantly dazed and content when you finally turn the last page. If I could give this book more stars, I absolutely would!

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Star Count 5/5
Format Hard
Page Count 288 pages
Publisher Post Hill Press
Publish Date 10-Jan-2023
ISBN 9781637585764 Buy this Book
Issue July 2023
Category Modern Literature