THE WIREGRASS - Pam Webber
A Perfect 10
She Writes Press
Print ISBN: 978-1-63152-943-6
Crystal Springs, Alabama – 1969
Nettie lives for her summers. She can't wait for her parents' car to head south from Virginia to her “Ain't” Pitty's house in the sleepy southern town of Crystal Springs. Every summer the “cussins,” Nettie and her Campbell cousins, would descend upon the little hamlet and spend the summer fishing, swimming, and playing pranks on the locals.
The cussins consist of their leader, fifteen year-old J.D., Eric, next in line, Nettie's sister Sam, Nettie, their six year-old brother Lil Bit, J.D.'s sister Sandra, and Sharon, J.D. and Sandra's little sister. Everyone in town knew them, or knew of them, always suspecting, but never able to prove that they were the ones guilty of the various pranks pulled on those who gave their "Ain't" Pitty grief.
The summer of 1969 begins with the growing realization to Nettie that she is changing physically, and emotionally. That becomes all the more real when she meets handsome Mitchell. While Nettie and the cussins dive head first into their high jinx, Mitchell works at a nearby business. He makes it clear to the cussins to steer clear of his father and his father's friend. Nettie and the others notice the bruises on Mitchell and figure that his warning has merit. They try and include Mitchell in their fishing and swimming trips, although they're careful not to reveal their night time forays into TP'n their chosen victims' properties.
Wiregrass is a region of the Deep South, and this novel, THE WIREGRASS, is a coming of age tale for not only Nettie, but her older cousins as well. Childhood shenanigans turn to serious issues as the summer progresses, with Mitchell harboring many secrets, and the cussins having to face the consequences of their actions. Nettie tells the story in her own words, describing their summer rituals from buying their flip-flops, to helping with the chores, and riding in their Ain't Pitty's old car, Jigger.
A Perfect 10 doesn't happen easily, but THE WIREGRASS grabbed my interest from the beginning. Beautifully written, the story is enhanced by lovely sketches within the pages of various places in Crystal Springs. The characters are lovingly presented, from the lively cussins, to the hauntingly sad Mitchell. There are few books I can look back on that brought tears to my eyes, and this is one of them. I enjoyed THE WIREGRASS immensely and highly recommend it.