Well, I'm a little late with the May selection for the Year of Reading Dangerously. I read it during May, but I haven't had time to get something posted until now. I don't feel as if I'll do it justice since it's been a little while. But, I'll give it a shot. If you're interested in what others thought about the book, take a look at the review site.
This book is semi-autobiographical. Capote wrote this novel when he was very young -- around 22 (I think), and it has all the characteristics of good Southern Lit. According to Maggie, it passes the true test -- "the dead mule." I'm also using this one for her Southern Reading Challenge. The story begins with 13-year old Joel Knox trying to deal with the loss of his mother. He's been living with his aunt since his mother's death, but his estranged father has now summoned him to come live with him in New Orleans. Joel is excited to meet his father, but things certainly don't turn out the way he envisions them. If you're not familiar with Southern Lit., happy endings can be rare.
After a long journey in which Joel has to catch a ride with a stranger and then make his way to Skully's Landing on the back of a wagon in the middle of the night, he's disappointed when his father isn't there to meet him. Instead, he meets his stepmother, Amy and Zoo Fever, the family's servant. In fact, it will be quite a long while before he meets his father. Everyone ignores his questions about his father. The only evidence that there is anyone else in the house is a 'knocking' sound and a red tennis ball that occasionally bounces down the stairs.
Everyone in the story is damaged in some way -- physically, mentally or emotionally. Zoo bears a long scar across her neck, but it's not this physical scar that torments her. Instead, it's the emotional one that accompanies it. She is crippled by fear of what may happen to her. Other characters that are out of the ordinary include, a midget with an apparent tendency towards pedophilia, a recluse with special healing powers, a tomboy (Joel's only friend) with an anger management problem, and the flamboyant Cousin Randolph who is eating and drinking himself to death as he pines over his one true love.
I enjoyed this story a great deal. I think this is a wonderful first novel that showcases a talent that was truly extraordinary. I'm glad I read this one.