In 1947 racially-charged Mills Hollow, South Carolina, Chloe Mason knows not to go near the Negroes who live in the river shacks, especially sixteen-year-old Big Jim. He’s something of a myth, a big black boy known for eating opossums and howling at the moon. At least that’s what Chloe’s brother, Caleb, and her Pa, a fiddle-playing Southerner who waves a Confederate flag, tell her. Yet when Chloe slips into Foxhole Swamp, it’s Big Jim who saves her from an alligator. She secretly befriends Big Jim and takes it upon herself to teach him to read, even bringing him a forbidden peach from Widow Jones’ tree. Chloe meets Big Jim in a tree fort he constructs in the woods, and together they endure the injustices Big Jim suffers – like being whipped by Chloe’s father for trespassing. But once her father discovers their secret meetings and is ready to lynch Big Jim, Chloe’s loyalty is tested to the breaking point, calling into question everything she’s come to believe about herself, her family, and what truly matters most.
Lisa Belmont’s debut novel is a vividly imagined tale set in the Lowcountry swamps of South Carolina; a poignant story of enduring hope, relentless determination and coming-of-age at a time when innocence is all but gone.
Amazon Link – https://amzn.to/2Zf7buQ
Book Releases July 31, 2019
A Peach for Big Jim is a tale about a girl who pursues a forbidden love. The protagonist, Chloe, dares to befriend a black man at a time when many people are still openly racist in the South. Their friendship begins when Jim saves Chloe’s life on a chance meeting by the river. Out of gratitude, Chloe befriends Jim and starts to teach him how to read. This is a great risk because Jim is well known and much hated by Chloe’s father and brother. How long can their secret meetings remain undiscovered?
This is a riveting tale with many twists and turns. Chloe starts teaching Jim out of gratitude but soon discovers a deep connection between them that compels her to protect him. Many would have her believe that Jim is dull and unable to learn, but she has no trouble teaching him. Their meetings are a joy to them both.
Not long after, Jim’s mother finds out that Chloe is teaching Jim. She is on their side but also wary of her son’s safety. There is a popular tale in town about a girl who tried to run away with a black boy; their story was tragic, and she thinks Jim and Chloe will suffer a similar fate. It turns out that Chloe and Jim aren’t the only ones keeping a secret. Someone else harbors a dangerous secret for which he would be willing to kill. In a town like Mills Hollow, Jim would be the obvious scapegoat for a murder. His race and physique set him apart. Theirs is a dangerous friendship, but they remain true to each other and to their principles.
I rate this book highly. The story was rich and its twists and turns were pleasant and unexpected. I also gained some insight into how Jim Crow laws impacted black people’s lives. I recommend it to anyone who loves historical fiction and thriller genres. The story might be about a girl and a boy, but don’t expect a fiery romance. A Peach for Big Jim is suitable for adults and young adults, too.
The build-up to the climax of the story is intriguing and full of suspense. Tolerance will fail the town’s people, friendships will be betrayed, secrets will be exposed, and a murder and a cover-up will ensue. I loved every moment of the story, and I couldn’t have hoped for a better ending.
Reviewed By: Esther Wairimu
I drew much of my inspiration for A PEACH FOR BIG JIM from my mom’s childhood tales. A gifted writer in her own right, my mother grew up in a rural town, much like the fictional Mills Hollow where the story takes place. Some of the more humorous elements of the story were inspired by stories of my mom’s younger brother, Harold, who was known to run around the woods and bring home wild animals. Once he brought home a snake and it disappeared inside the house. How they found it, I’m not sure, but I know it was pretty nerve-wracking while they were looking for it.
My grandpa was born in Mississippi and one of my earliest memories is of him chopping down a tree with my father. I remember him as a kindly older gentleman who loved God and was good to people. Thankfully, he was nothing like the patriarch in my novel. My grandma mirrors Chloe’s mother in the novel in that she had a great sense of hospitality. She could make a gourmet meal for a dozen people at the drop of a hat. How she did it, I still wonder. I like to think it’s a Southern gift, but whatever it is, there’s an indescribable joy that surrounds a table filled with food and made with love.
I currently live in Seattle with my family and a cute little bichon named Frosty.
Find more info about Lisa Belmont at – https://www.lisabelmont.com/