Book Review by Michael Cart, Booklist
It’s Freedom Summer, 1964, in tiny Maeby, Arkansas, and three SNCC volunteers have come to town determined to integrate the public library and all-white school. They’re joined in their efforts by eight year-old Sarah’s unconventional, hot pants–wearing mother. The efforts to introduce change divide the black community as many are determined to preserve the old order. Sarah finds herself caught in the middle of all this, first siding with her conservative grandmother and then, gradually, coming to see her mother’s point of view. Throughout she is guided by her wise great-grandmother, an early civil rights pioneer. Change is further visited on Sarah’s life when she determines to be baptized against her worldly mother’s wishes. Slurs, insults, and harassment from the local authorities threaten the movement, as do two disastrous fires. And then Sarah’s mother decides to run for city council. Faye’s novel is far too long and detailed as she seems determined to include every possible aspect of the civil rights movement on a local scale. Too, Sarah seems older—far older—than her years. Nevertheless, the book succeeds at dramatizing an essential era in American history and is a welcome addition to civil rights literature.