Praying for Sheetrock by Melissa Fay Greene is a nonfiction book that takes place in rural Georgia during the 1970s. In McIntosh County, the Civil Rights Movement hasn’t had much of a ripple effect and the Sheriff still holds a lot of power, controlling the drugs, gambling, and even prostitution that moves through his county along with the northerners who drive through on their way to Florida or back from a vacation.
But the media that does reach the community, telling about the events that are occurring beyond the borders of the county and one man begins to see that things are wrong. And another man who returns home after serving in the military and on the New York City police force. There are also young men and women, inspired by President John F Kennedy’s call to “ask what I can do for my country,” fresh out of law school and eager to make a difference in the world.
Together, with other members, things begin to change and the African American community begins to confront the long standing issues that have allowed the status quo. Each small step leads to another and yet another until the power is, if not shifted, at least no longer so single handed.
Unfortunately, with real life, happy endings are no guaranteed and heroes, even when they are successful, can be terribly, if not tragically, flawed. One almost wishes that the Greene had chosen to stop the book after part two because what occurs in part three is disheartening. Not terribly surprising but nonetheless saddening.
Greene's prose is almost as well-crafted, filled with metaphors and nearly poetic descriptions, as it is in her later books.While I may not have enjoyed this book as much as I did The Temple Bombing, I do recommend it as an interesting and not often told story that gives some insight into just how deeply rooted racial issues were in our country long after Emancipation was supposed to fix things. And an intelligent or insightful reader will realize that some things still haven’t changed. Or haven’t changed enough. But we have come, if not a long way, part of the way.
This book is part of the BISHRBN Challenge as well as one of my Fifteen in 2011. And keep an eye out for me to be announcing a reading challenge of my own for 2012. Oh boy!