South of Charm, by Elliot Grace

Amazon Editorial Review

We're huddled in the far corner of my bedroom. Arms wrapped around our knees in the dark. The approaching footsteps grow louder. Ominous thuds. Our mother, but somehow not. She's standing outside my door. We listen to the creak of the hinges. My sister clenches my arm. "She's coming," she whispers. "She's broken."
I've watched Elliot Grace's journey to write this novel and to find a publisher. He has worked hard and his book was released recently by Wooster Books. I've yet to read the whole book, but I saw the first review today and I thought it would be a good way to support a fellow blogger and to get Elliot's book out there as it will be some time before I can read it in full. How do I know it'll be good? Because Elliot has posted many excellent excerpts on his blog, So close, and talked so much about his characters that I feel I know them well. I love Elliot's emotive writing style. He reminds me of Pat Conroy who is one of my favourite writers.

Here is an excerpt to give you an idea of Elliot's magic with words:

Alone in the dark, one arm hugging the other, I studied the knee-high ocean of wheat billowing in the breeze.  A field butted up to our backyard, the year's crop still green, their stalks thin like rye grass.
And as I sat, I thought of Richie Frank's laugh, like the boisterous call of a blue jay.  I wondered if Brad had caught me in height, or perhaps passed me by.  He'd been gaining on me the summer past.
And while I knew I'd be seeing them in less than a day, I felt certain that my friends were long gone.
Then as I watched the darkened silhouette of a field moving as one, I spied a pair of golden eyes shimmering amongst the harvest, and realized an old friend had returned.
Dad had scoffed at the idea of bringing the cat on moving day.  "That old thing?" he'd said.  "He won't make it through the winter no matter where he lives.  Leave him be."
The wheat parted, and the cat sauntered into the yard.  He walked with a limp, his coat no worse for the wear, but covered in burrs and field dust.  He made his way to my side, where he rested his haunches, regarding my shock with disinterest.  As if a cat making a ten mile trek across the county to reunite with a friend was common practice.
"It's you," I said.  "You're here."
I reached behind a mangled ear and with thumb and forefinger, massaged his scruff.  He managed a purr, broken and laced with phlegm.  A moment passed before he lifted a paw to his tongue and started cleaning.  He had his work cut out for him.
"You're the first visitor I've had out here," I said.
Now to the review:

Jennifer at Serendipity's Library has written the first review of South of Charm. It is posted on goodreads and she has graciously given me permission to reprint it here:

It was good!

I picked up Elliot's book on Friday and did not put it down until yesterday (Monday) afternoon.

The story is about a ten year old boy who is forced, along with his four year old sister, to watch his parents’ marriage disintegrate. His mother starts acting completely out of character....I won't tell you why you will figure it out on your own. Most of the story is told from his perspective and I found it both sad and interesting to look at the violence and abuse parents can sometimes inflict on each other through the eyes of their child. You will want to think some parts of the story seem unrealistic...but pick up any newspaper and you will realize that the sad truth is this is probably happening everyday in your own town.
On a happier note I love that there is a baseball aspect to the story...cause its summer time and baseball is the king of summer. Go Phillies! Although the little league coach is a complete jackass.
I found myself yelling at the characters which is a good sign....if I care enough to show how crazy I am without caring who is looking at me....well then, that my friend means the book and characters are well written.
Normally my reading leans towards the Horror, Mystery, Paranormal type novel but South of Charm
was a nice break from that and it really made me think...which sometimes I like to do.

L'Aussie here again. I have trouble rating this book as it has so many themes both adult and YA. I asked Elliot how he would categorise it. Here's his reply:

'My editor insists that it's an adult book, and has shelved it accordingly. I'm hesitant to agree.  Yes, there is some adult content. Very little swearing, and when asked, I've given it a PG-13 rating.  It's one of those coming of age stories involving our youth, as they face a very mature problem, a la Stephen King's "Stand by Me." (I think it was actually called "The Body," before Hollywood bought the rights.)  Not sure if this really answers your question, but when asked, I simply call it a coming of age story for everyone.' 

Now because I haven't actually finished Elliot's novel I asked Jennifer where she would place the little rooster bar below. She said a solid 8 out of 10! Thanks Jennifer!

Jennifer's Verdict: 8/10



Anonymous said...

Thanks, Denise, for letting me know about this post!

This sounds like my kind of book. I want to read it based on this intriguing excerpt. The writing is excellent, the prose lean and compelling, the kind of prose I like. The voice is perfect for a ten-year-old boy who sees the world in its beautiful simplicity. Strong nouns, strong verbs, no distracting and weak adverbs. The narrator simply says what he sees and does, and how he felt. This brief excerpt is packed with strong imagery. This understated kind of writing is most effective for a subject as painful as this: a child/children afflicted by parents whose marriage is disintegrating.

Ann Best, Memoir Author

L'Aussie said...

Ann: Great comment. Elliot and his wife take in foster kids so he has first-hand experience and it shows.


Jennifer said...

My nine year old son is now reading this book. I think Elliot does a wonderful job being the voice of a ten year old and I will be curious to hear what my son thinks. There are some intense moments but in this age of violent video games it may be a lesson on what the real life result of violence is. Thank you for sharing my thoughts on this book on your blog!

L'Aussie said...

Jennifer: Great to hear that your son is reading it. Thank you for allowing me to post.


Donna Hole said...

I agree with the publisher that this is not exactly MG or YA. But there was a strong 10 year old perspective through a large portion of Danny's narrative.

It is definitely not the few swearing words that make this a PG 13. I would be anxious to get a 10 or 12 year old's perspective on this. My kid doesn't read, sadly.

I thoroughly enjoyed the novel. It had some wonderfully humorous moments, as well as the sections that just tear your heart to pieces.

I posted a review/author interview on my blog.


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