So many books I read end up getting lost in the recesses of my mind, and if you asked me sixth months later what I had read, I wouldn't be able to tell you much about the book. Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy will, I think, stay with me for a very long time. This is the story of a friendship between a preacher's son and a pauper black girl from a small island off the coast of Maine.
My wife found the book at Goodwill, and bought it because it takes place in our home state, and because it is a Newbery Honor book.
I started reading it and was hooked from the very first page. The main characters (Lizzie Bright and Hunter Buckminster III) are such believable characters, and I had a sense - which I seldom get from fictional books - that these were real, honest-to-goodness people. My perceptions were shaped, perhaps, by the fact that I'm from Maine, and know the places described in the book.
But it wasn't until I was several chapters in that I suddenly realized that this book was only partly fictional. It is the story of one of Maine's most shameful historic events. It is the story of Malaga Island, and the state's decision to remove the island's slave-descended and mixed-race residents and place them in a home for the feeble-minded, where they lived out the remainder of their tragic lives.
Here are some of the things that I loved about this book:
- The descriptions of the Maine coast, community, and church life.
- Believable character interactions and ever changing relationships.
- In keeping with #2, a recurring theme of forgiveness (not explicitly mentioned, but clearly evident).
- Characters who don't always do exactly what you expected them to.
- The depictions of human selfishness, along with selflessness and courage.
- The sprinkling of humorous moments and funny dialogue in the midst of a difficult story.
When I see "Newbery Honor," I automatically think, "book for kids," but this is a book for older kids. It has also won "young adult" awards. The story, being based around tragic historic events, is very dark at times, and as you can probably deduce from what I've said so far, does not have a happy ending.
But it is a powerful book, and it deserves a place in your reading list. There is much more I could say about the book, but I don't want to spoil too much of it for you, so I'll stop here.
I have a feeling this will be one of those rare books that I'll come back to some day and read for a second - maybe even a third time.
Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt
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