Book Review: Deed So by Kathleen Russell

This book is set in politically and socially turbulent 1960s America where women and ethnic minorities were beginning to emerge from under the oppressive discrimination they’d suffered until then. But the prejudices are still simmering. There are boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed. The after effects of both the Second World War and the Vietnam War are continuing to be felt too. The scene of the book’s action is Wicomico Corners in Maryland, a relatively stable and peaceful community, with few extremists. However, a handicapped white boy is beaten up by a gang of black youths, one of whom is later killed. The trial of a white man by a white jury soon has protests starting and tension mounts. Haddie is involved and shows great courage.

I had high expectations of this book and I wasn’t disappointed. Kathleen Russell is a versatile and talented author who always weaves a complex and fascinating tale with apparently diverse subplots that gradually intertwine. Alongside the strains on the life of the community, family life is also severely stressed and tested. My only slight criticism of Deed So is that the role of narrator occasionally means that Haddie has to be old beyond her years. She goes from talking about girly things, like a new outfit, to sketching out major social and political event, even if she doesn’t quite understand them. There are inevitable slight hints of To Kill a Mocking Bird, given the trial at the centre, but generally this is an original, ambitious and impressive novel .