Me and Rupert Goody
Ages 8 to 12
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999, 0-374-44804
Jennalee had things the way she wanted them. She knew what to expect every day and though her home life was pretty terrible she had found a way to get around that. Jennalee had found herself another family in the old man who ran the local general store. Uncle Beau was no relation but he might as well have been. For Jennalee, Uncle Beau, his dog Jake, and the store itself were her family. When she wasn’t at school she could be found at the store for there she could find the stability and routein that she craved.
In the slow drawl of the North Carolina countryside the author has created a strange and poignant world for Jennalee, getting deep into the hearts and lives of the people who live in this part of the country. She clearly understands how small towns like Claytonville work and leads us through her sometimes painful tale of love and acceptance. Jennalee loves and needs the General Store and the time away from her real family and home so badly in fact that when Rupert Goody turns up claiming to be Uncle Beau’s son she goes to pieces. She doesn’t want to believe it and chooses to think that Rupert is an imposter. A gentle somewhat slow black man, Rupert doesn’t look much like Uncle Beau and for Jennalee that is enough. She feels threatened, angry and jealous all at once and doesn’t quite know what to do with all her feelings, lashing out at anyone who gets in her way, especially at Rupert, poor sweet Rupert.
It is only when the very center of her love, Uncle Beau, is hurt, and especially later when the store burns down, that Jennalee discovers that Uncle Beau is right and that she and Rupert have something in common. Only then can she let the anger and jealousy go and find a new level of stability and happiness for herself.
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