Reading this book is like traveling back through time. This book deserves to be on the list of classic American literature all should read.
In 1938 Mississippi, an eighth-grade education is deemed plenty for a sharecropper’s son, but young Towanna Whittaker is determined to finish high school and “be somebody,” studying at night after picking cotton during harvest season. Then a vicious rumor makes the boy a social outcast. When his adored mother abandons the family and her newborn baby girl, it falls to Towanna to give up his education and care for the child while his pa and older brother struggle to bring in a massive cotton crop.
Towanna finds unexpected peace and solace in caring for his baby sister–until a terrible accident robs him of the child. Only the steadfast faith of a local midwife and the love and comfort of Kathy, a neighbor’s daughter, begin to heal his battered heart. But World War II arrives all too soon to tear them apart. Drafted into the army and deployed to Europe, Towanna must face death, loss, and his deepest fears if he’s to survive the War and find his way home.
I have read and reviewed hundreds of books in my life. As an avid reader and lover of history, I’m particularly drawn to works of historical fiction from the early 20th century. I was pleased to find this book and give it a read. I was not disappointed.
Second Son: A Novel of the Deep South follows a host of beautiful, flawed characters that immerse the reader into the human struggles of yesterday. The story centers on Towanna Whitaker. He’s the second son of a white sharecropper in Mississippi just before the Second World War. His father is old-fashioned and a hard worker, and doesn’t quite believe in “book learning” but the son is determined to “be somebody.”
Towanna is a sweet, loving boy. He’s insecure about his body and his place in the world. Topics like sexual abuse, bullying, infidelity, and betrayal are weaved throughout the story, reminding all of us that some stories play out no matter where the setting may be. Towanna grows into a man as you read of his trials and triumphs, eventually ending up in France as a medic in World War II.
My only complaint about the novel is that the very real plight of the freed slaves that lived in the area in the time was completely left out. While there were black characters, the issue of race was completely ignored. As we all know, race relations never went away in the deep south, and I sometimes wonder if they ever will.
I will put it plainly: It was a wonderful book to read. I would recommend it to all of my friends who love books. It was not until I finished the novel that I learned that the author had lived through this time, in this place, and had written the story using his memories of the time and that his granddaughter had been left the manuscript and turned it into the beautiful novel that is today. I believe that this book could be an American classic. It is a book I will never forget, the characters will live with me for all my years. I feel like I was privileged to be able to get a glimpse of the life these people lived, granting the author, Herman Willis Logan, some small measure of immortality – the words he left behind will continue to touch all who read them. His granddaughter, Kathleen Parrish, has certainly done him proud.
This review first appeared on Discovery by Reedsy.