Leaving Atlanta- Tayari Jones
nationality: USA, of color
A coming of age story told by three different narrators against the backdrop of Atlanta summer murders of 1979.
Like any outcast child, I went through a serial killer stage...not becoming one of course but a morbid obsession with them. If I could go back in time, I'd give that teenage me this book. Not because it focuses on the killings but because I still find it quite astonishing how even books that purported to be about the victims were obsessed with the deaths and this is a great antidote to that. Jones in contrast concentrates on the child's eye view of the fear that serial killings instill into communities without sacrificing tone and authenticity.
I loved the voices of the three children. The recent books I've read from children narrators (some from the Booker Prize list) have all striked me as rather gimmicky and either too precocious or too infantalized or, just unnecessary. But in Leaving Atlanta, they are not gimmicky, they are not infantalized , they are children with all the worries and fears of ten year olds. They are worried about their parents, their family, and their reputations. They just want to have friends and not worry about losing them. I vaguely remember being a ten year old and this is exactly what I worried about. And the way Jones writes it, it becomes engaging and I would've read an entire novel about 10 year olds by themselves.
Except of course, I didn't worry about my classmates potentially dying and that setting adds a great mood to the whole novel and raises it above the more gimmicky recent novels in children's voices. I really can't recommend this enough!
P.S. I just recently learned that Jones actually grew up in Atlanta and had classmates who disappeared so rest assured, she knows what she's talking about.