Audiobook Review: The Dry Grass of August

You know you are listening to a damn fine story when you don’t want to pull in to your driveway at the end of the day, or you find yourself wanting to keep driving past that left turn in to the parking lot at work. You heave a despairing sigh knowing that the turn has to be made and the story has to be stopped again until quitting time for the now much anticipated commute home. Such was the case for me listening to The Dry Grass of August. All the time! It’s too bad gas prices are what they are right now, for I might have been tempted to keep driving past home and work.

This is a very (very, very)  moving coming-of-age story in the segregated South of 1954, occuring in the summer at the time of Brown v Board.  This is the description from Goodreads: In this beautifully written debut, Anna Jean Mayhew offers a riveting depiction of Southern life in the throes of segregation, what it will mean for a young girl on her way to adulthood–and for the woman who means the world to her.  On a scorching day in August 1954, thirteen-year-old Jubie Watts leaves Charlotte, North Carolina, with her family for a Florida vacation. Crammed into the Packard along with Jubie are her three siblings, her mother, and the family’s black maid, Mary Luther. For as long as Jubie can remember, Mary has been there–cooking, cleaning, compensating for her father’s rages and her mother’s benign neglect, and loving Jubie unconditionally.

June Bentley Watts, or Jubie as she is endearingly known, is a remarkable girl and I love and miss her dearly. There are a good many number of parts in this story that I want to share, but there are just so many and all are so well written, you’ll just have to experience for yourself! One thing to know about Jubie is that she is exceptionally aware of her surroundings, most notably all those signs of segregation and how others treat her wonderful and best friend, Mary. Mary herself touches your heart, especially in her calm understanding of the sad treatment she receives all due to her skin colour. Jubie spends much time noticing and coming to terms with the dynamics in her family in relation to family dynamics of those all around her. She questions her parents love for or how they express their love for one another, against other married couples, the discipline her father doles out compared to how her friends and cousins are disciplined and the treatment of Mary from all around her compared to her own respect and love.

Most of all, and as noted above in the description, Jubie loves Mary. Mary is her world. This is Jubie’s story of what happens to Mary and what it means ultimately for Jubie. In the beginning, Jubie lays blame on her sister Estelle for the horrible events that take Mary from her life, for if her sister hadn’t insisted on driving the car, they wouldn’t have had an accident, and they wouldn’t have had to spend time in Georgia waiting for the car to be repaired. Jubie tells her story in alternating time-frames, from the present and from the week leading up to the final horrific events. Anna Jean Mayhew has created in Jubie, a character so rich and authentic. Really, she has created a multitude of characters that are so vivid and sharp, but the best are Jubie and and Mary too. Jubie and Mary will shred your heart. The narrator, Karen White, takes Mayhew’s lush words and turns them in to an entirely authentic narration.

So..if you do get the chance to read this wonderful story, I really encourage you to listen to it. Mayhew’s brilliant and sharp writing coupled with White’s narration is a marvelous listening opportunity that I wouldn’t want you to miss out on hearing! White superbly brings to life the voices of each of the characters involved in this story. They become so vivid, their voices will leave you breathless and physically moved, sickened, saddened, etc. (The part where Jubie receives the belt lashing from her father (with the buckle end mind you) will leave your heart racing.You will be physically moved too at the part where Mary and the girls meet their horrible and fateful run in with big-time losers.)

Turns out, this is Anna Jean Mayhew’s debut novel and it was written when she was the tender young age of 71! Amazon has a Question and Answer section at the bottom of their link to the book. You can read it here. It’s a wonderful interview.

BermudaOnion interviewed the narrator, Karen White, and in specific on how Karen prepared to read The Dry Grass of August. You can find that interview here.

Again we’ve found a definite Literary Hoarders Approved Read! 4 shining stars for this heart wrenching southern-coming-of-age-tale of Jubie Watts and her beloved maid, Mary Luther.