Author: Nina Revoyr.
Publisher: Akashic Books. Available in hardcover and paperback 2011.
Why we select the books we read is somewhat of a mystery. Sometimes we read something because it is on the best seller list or a friend has said, “You just have to read this.” Often it is a new book just published by an author we have come to love over the years. We would hope it is frequently because you read a review such as this that led you to feel the need to read the book being reviewed. Occasionally we are just caught up by the look of the cover, which somehow has caught our eye and every once in awhile it is just serendipity that that particular cover called to us and we find we are reading a book that will live with us for a long, long time. Such is the case for me with Wingshooters. The front flap of the book compares it to To Kill a Mockingbird, A River Runs Through It and Snow Falling on Cedars. People who write the flaps for books are prone to a bit, or even a whole lot, of puffery. In this case there is no false puffery. Its comparisons are true. It is a touching book to read and one that will leave you with much to think about. If you happen to read it for a book club I guarantee you will have much to discuss.
Set in the early nineteen seventies in the small, all white, town of Deerhorn, Wisconsin we get our first inkling of what the story will be about when we learn that Michelle LeBeau (Mikey), a girl with an American father and Japanese mother has been left in the care of her grandparents. Her mother left when she could not fit into the community and her father soon fled to go after her leaving Mikey with the unfulfilled promise to return soon. The town is not thrilled to have a young girl “of color” thrust into their midst. She is not just ignored, but blatantly rejected and even bullied by her school mates. Her grandfather, however, quickly falls totally in love with her and takes her under his wing, taking her everywhere he goes and even teaching her how to fight back when bullied. That fact, along with her intense love for her dog, is what makes her able to cope with life without her parents, especially her father whom she yearns for. The only reason members of Deerhorn are willing to accept her at all is that her grandfather is a leader in the community, not in the political sense, but instead as one who is looked up to and depended upon when problems need solving. His friends, a closely knit group, including the sheriff, gather at his home often to ask his advice and almost daily have lunch together to discuss the day’s happening.
The town is soon completely in an uproar when a young, professional black couple moves into town. He has been hired as a substitute for a teacher on maternity leave, and she is the new nurse at the local clinic. Other than Mikey, this is the town’s first time to have someone among them totally different from themselves. They are not accepting, in any way, of having one of “them” living in their town, teaching their children and touching them at the clinic. Plans are soon under way to get rid of them. Things go from bad to worse when the black teacher reports one of the students as being physically abused by his parents when he notices both new and old scars on the child’s back. The parents deny any wrong doing and are believed because the father is a very close friend of Mikey’s grandfather and the sheriff. Mikey, however, also saw the scars on the little boy’s back so is torn between what she hears and what she knows is the truth. Taken along with the fact that she has been treated nothing but kindly by both the teacher and the nurse leaves her feeling lost and bewildered.
J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter books, was recently quoted as saying, “It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to your enemies, but even more to stand up to your friends.” This quote will ring true when you read what transpires as friends have to take sides as the town is torn apart by truths, untruths and bigotry.
Diane Bostick has lived on Marco Island since 1987. She was the Founder and President of Ft. Myers chapter of the Association of Children with Learning Disabilities, President of Jr. Welfare League, Ft. Myers Chapter, and served on the board of Art League of Marco Island. She is an avid reader, fly fisherwoman, tennis player and crafter.