I told my dear friend Cate Poe that I would share my reaction to reading Attica Locke. Cate has never steered me wrong with a reading suggestion & she did not fail to deliver with Attica Locke’s Bluebird, Bluebird.
This is a gem of a book for anyone who enjoys well written, well crafted mystery & detective novels. It reads, as more than one reviewer has pointed out, like a classical blues song.
Bluebird, Bluebird is the first of two in Locke’s Highway 59 series. Most Texans know that part of 59 runs across East Texas, from the border at Laredo & winding up at the Arkansas border. And along the way, there are dozens & dozens of small towns embedded between cities.
Locke draws on her own family history in this novel. Although it isn’t necessary, if you choose to explore this read, I recommend all potential readers to google Attica Locke & read her family story.
Locke’s family story was not anything I ever learned in all those years of Texas History in public school – not even the required course in college.
Both my parents were born & raised in small East Texan towns. I was born in Dallas, but I traveled with my parents to places like Canton & Tyler & Lake Jackson. My accent was so deep East Texas that Papa Field, the speech teacher at Coronado High School in El Paso gave me a list of phrases to read & record on a cassette & then reviewed them until my accent was completely neutralized.
As a native East Texan & someone who has lived & traveled along the 59 corridor for decades, with only two short deviations to northwest Houston & Washington, D.C., this novel is rich with personal recognition & memory.
I have been to that single street light in the center of Cold Springs. I have been to Shepard. I have been to Jasper. I have lived in a rural county bordering Houston, when the 59 freeway tapered down from multiple lanes to two lanes on either side of a massive field between.
So, when I read Bluebird, Bluebird, I was there. I knew the landscape, the food, the music & too much about the rules governing small East Texas communities.
This was the only novel I have read cover to cover in one sitting since my mother died this past August. It was exactly the novel I needed to read. I was drawn in & completely immersed. For the hours it to complete the reading, I was transported outside myself & my grief, traveling down 59 & trying to solve two murders.
Locke’s characters are well drawn, the plot so well crafted that my immersion in solving the intertwining mysteries of deaths in a small town was not enough to predict all the details of the final solution.
Which made it enormously satisfying.
Locke left me wanting more, eager to read the second volume of this series. Literally, she left me hanging. In a good way.
I am picking up Heaven, my Home from the library this week.
As always, thank you, Cate.
For anyone interested in this wonderful read, or just in the blues: check out Lightnin’ Hopkins’ Bluebird Blues on YouTube or anything with his name attached.