Friday, October 05, 2007

Let the Circle Be Unbroken

While waiting for my car to be inspected, I finished Mildred Taylor's Let the Circle be Unbroken, the sequel to her Newbery Award winning powerhouse, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.

Sequels can be tricky things, whether they are books or movies. If the first product is a critical and/or popular success, the stakes are inevitably higher for the sequel. Can the creator maintain accurate continuity and characterization? Can the creator maintain the interest in the story?

Mildred Taylor has achieved all this, and so much more, in Let the Circle be Unbroken. The Logans' teenage neighbor, TJ, is on trial for the murder of a white man (of which he is not guilty). A visit from their biracial cousin, encouraged to "pass" as white by her white mother, stirs up excitement and resentment. Unfair working conditions lead to talk of unions, which would include black and white sharecroppers. An elderly neighbor attempts to register to vote. And the disappearance of a brother, gone to make money in order to help the family, causes unimagineable fear in this close-knit family.

As with Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Taylor makes no attempt to mask the injustice and cruelty of the era. The saga of the Logan family is definitely one of the modern classics of YA literature.

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