Romping through their yard, Berry Jackson and her brothers attempt to escape the smothering heat of Pinetta, Fla. Despite negative attitudes toward the temperatures, for locals, summer events quickly overshadow griping.
Daughter to school principal Ford, Berry comes from more money than most in Pinetta. Religion is pervasive for her and the town, and it’s an overwhelming decision-making factor. This religious perseverance divides the town between Baptists and Methodists, creating conflicts and controversy.
That summer, the town was victim to a tornado. It destroyed nearly everything, and the town must work together to recover.
Berry’s family feels the devastation on a deeper level as Ford disappears during the natural disaster, apparently with the most beautiful woman in town.
Ford is never heard of again, adding to the drama felt in Berry’s life, as she must trudge on with no father figure. And when a convict comes to the town to help repair the damage, Berry becomes infatuated.
Her independent spirit and religious upbringing clash in this relationship, drawing out her true thoughts and creating a character that is easy to sympathize with.
But Berry’s innocence is occasionally over played. The choice creates a character that readers may want to shake into reality.
The other characters realistically portray the lifestyle they would have been subjected to in the 1950s.
When Berry’s mother Ruth begins chasing after men, including a preacher and a wealthy neighbor, members of the community rudely criticize her actions.
Her neighbor and good friend Jimmy is forced to wear his sister’s hand-me-down dresses because the family can’t afford to buy him clothes. Jimmy is mocked throughout the town, and Ford, before he disappears, reprimands Jimmy’s parents.
These types of occurrences stir up the community, making the small town life seem a little more eventful. Such gossip fuels residents, and, as Berry watches from the sidelines, her thoughts regarding societal norms are revealed.
Berry must deal with these societal boundaries, but despite the pressures, she keeps herself at the forefront of her decisions and beliefs. Her personality is paired with others in the town that want to make something of themselves but think their only route to success is one out of Pinetta.
The young girl’s decisions make more sense than the rest of the adults in the community, innocently discovering reality and the true meaning of finding yourself.
Staff writer Kelly Bleck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.