Sunday, September 27, 2015

Fall Reading 2015 Last in a Long Line of Rebels


Imagine living in a house that has been in your family for 150 years, since the time of the American Civil War. Wouldn't that be an awesome place to grow up? Now imagine that the city has decided to condemn the house so that they can bulldoze it and build offices on the property. Not such an awesome feeling. And that's what Louise Mayhew is dealing with, among other things. There is also the new baby that her mother will be having soon, her grandmother Bertie has gone through a third divorce and moved in with them, the football scholarship her friend Isaac hoped for has been given to another player, and the snobby Sally Martin is still teasing Lou about living in an old house next to a salvage yard. So, it's really just your typical summer vacation, right?

Lou, her cousin Patti, and her friends Benzer and Franklin, make it their mission to find a way to save the house. Franklin has been working toward becoming an Eagle Scout, and Lou finds that there is a badge for American Heritage. She convinces everyone to work on having her house declared an Historical Landmark so that it will be protected from demolition. As they begin to research the history of the house and Lou's family, they find that there is an old unsolved mystery about the Mayhews. According to local legend, some gold was stolen during the war and it was suspected that Walter Mayhew hid the gold. Now they have two possible ways to save the house - because if they find the gold, that would work, too.

All through the summer the kids visit the local historical museum and the library, search the house, use a metal detector to search the yard, and try to think of where else they can look for clues. They are also busy with the town's reaction to Isaac not getting the scholarship and rumors that the coach gave it to a white player, rather than Isaac, because he is prejudiced. The fair comes to town. Grandma Bertie is busy dating. Lou's family is still trying to get a nursery ready for the baby, hoping that they won't have to move. It is a busy time, even if they are not off on a cruise like Sally Martin.

I enjoyed the way the Civil War diary entries of Lou's namesake, Louise Duncan Mayhew, were interspersed with the chapters of present times. And the way that each new discovery changed Lou's perceptions of her family's history shows how our assumptions can be changed by learning new facts. Even without the fair it seems that Lou is on a rollercoaster - proud of having the oldest house in the county, ashamed that the family sided with the Confederacy, appalled at learning they were slave owners, relieved to learn that some of them supported emancipation - her emotions get a thorough workout.

I also enjoyed this book because of its setting in Zollicoffer, Tennessee. Although there is not such a place (although Bluff City was briefly named Zollicoffer from 1862 - 1865), its location in middle Tennessee is close enough to my home to have many familiar references. Lou mentions Knoxville, the UT Volunteers, Cookeville, Tennessee Tech, MTSU, the 1982 World's Fair and the Sun Sphere - all of which are places I've been and things I've seen. Tying in the Civil War history of Tennessee with the story makes it very compelling.

This is a book that entertains and draws readers in while at the same time making them aware that some prejudices from the past are still in evidence today, and that people are still making a stand for what they believe is right. I highly recommend this for middle grades and up - especially for readers who enjoy mysteries.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

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