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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Madewell Brown by Rick Collignon (Book Review)

Title: Madewell Brown
Author: Rick Collignon
Publisher: Unbridled Books
Available: May 2009
ISBN-13: 978-1-932961-65-2
Genre: Fiction
This ARC was provided to me by Unbridled Books.

First sentence: Of all of them, Obie Poole was the only one who ever came back.

This is the story of Madewell Brown, told in flashbacks by his friend and fellow ballplayer Obie Poole. Obie and Madewell grew up in South Cairo, Illinois and together with a band of other boys created the South Cairo Greys - an African-American baseball team. For most of the players, the team was the only family they ever really had. As you can tell from the first sentence, Obie is the only one who ever returned to South Cairo - all the other ones dropped out or died or were killed while they were on the road. Madewell just walked off the pitcher's mound in El Paso, Texas and Obie never did know what happened to him.

Many years later, back in South Cairo, a young girl named Rachel wanders by Obie's house - he recognizes her at once as the granddaughter of Madewell Brown. Over the years they form an unlikely friendship, as she provides him company and an outlet for all his stories - and he provides her a link to her past and becomes her surrogate grandfather. When Obie dies, he leaves his few possessions to her - among them a box filled with his memoirs. As she begins to read, she longs to believe that his stories of his baseball days were true.

In Guadalupe, New Mexico Ruffino Trujillo tells his son Cipriano a tale about a black man that he encountered out on the Mesa when he was a boy. It is the last and pretty much the only story, that he shared with his son about his childhood. Cipriano is perplexed by the story, but searches and finds a canvas bag in his father's shed with the name Madewell Brown on it. It is old, waterstained, covered with dust. Inside is an old blanket, some clothes, a photo of the South Cairo greys and a letter addressed to Obie Poole. Not knowing what to make of his father's story or what to do with the belongings, he mails the letter. It falls into the hands of Rachel.

As the stories converge, Madewell's history is told and what really happened up on the Mesa is divulged. It is told in simple language, but hints at the violence and racism that existed in that time.

This is the fourth book in Collignon's Guadalupe series, and I enjoyed it enough that I am going to look for the first three. It was an easy to read book, which would be good for a lazy summer day sitting on the porch with a glass of tea.

The first four books are Perdido, The Journal of Antonio Montoya, and A Santo in the Image of Cristobal Garcia.

2 comments:

bermudaonion said...

This is the second good review I've read of this book today. I'm anxious to read it now.

Julie P. said...

Great review! I posted mine today too!

http://bookingmama.blogspot.com/2009/05/review-madewell-brown.html

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