Author: Valerie Fraser Luesse
Release Date: January 2, 2018
Reviewer: Jennifer S. Roman
Alabama in the 1960s is still a time of segregation and prejudice. Additionally, a class system is in effect, separating the old established “haves” from the “have nots.” Missing Isaac explores both the prejudice and the classism of the time.
At the beginning of the book, Pete McLean’s world is turned upside down when his father, a white cotton farm landowner, is killed in a freak farming accident. He and his mother must continue the family business while mourning the loss. Pete especially does not take the death easily. Fortunately for him, one of the black farmhands, Isaac Reynolds, steps in and takes Pete under his wing. He takes him fishing and doesn’t lecture or assault Pete with questions; instead, he creates a comfortable silence in which Pete is able to mourn and come out of mourning on his own time. Isaac even does the unthinkable: he takes Pete to a blacks-only barbecue joint in the black community; he risks getting in trouble with both black and white people, but does it to help Pete. Pete and Isaac establish an unconventional friendship, but it works for both of them.
The second tragedy in Pete’s life is the sudden disappearance of Isaac. Witnesses last saw him on the way home from a poker game, and he was never seen again. Pete’s deep love for his friend gives him the determination to find out what happened to Isaac despite the segregation. The sheriff of their small town doesn’t spend much in the way of money or man hours looking for a black man, and frankly, nobody expects him to. Isaac’s own family knows that nothing will be done even if by some miracle someone does find out what happened to him.
Through Pete’s journey into healing after the loss of his dear friend, he comes upon a Pickett girl from the hollow and strikes up a friendship with her. She is from the wrong side of the tracks, and neither her family or the people in Pete’s world are happy about their new relationship.
So much changes throughout the story that affects Pete and how his life is defined. He learns about how people treat one another and how people value others’ lives differently. Along the way, he learns he does not have to be like that and that every person deserves respect.
I usually spend my time quickly reading through a book so that I can find out what happens next. I had a feeling I would want to slowly savor this one, so I made a point to do that. I am so glad I did; I was able to absorb and enjoy each part of the book, whether happy or sad. I think I enjoyed it much more by taking my time, and I am sure other readers will too. There is a lot to learn from the behavior of the various characters, and every one has something to say. The themes are just as relevant today as they were back then, and the storyline itself is engaging and thought-provoking. While parts of the story jumped around and confused me at times, they managed to circle back by the end of the book so that everything made sense. This is truly a well-thought-out book that deserves time and attention from its readers.
Violence and profanity appear throughout the story, but nothing is outright flagrant. Adults and mature teens should enjoy Missing Isaac for its relevant themes, well-developed characters, and fascinating storyline.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.