Vaught, Susan. Things Too Huge to Fix by Saying Sorry
September 6th 2016 by Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Dani Beans' grandmother was an influential writer and Civil Rights activist before Alzheimer's began taking its toll. Now, her grandmother lives with the family, and Dani tries her best to include her in family dinners and talk to her the way she used to. One of the most significant things about her grandmother's past was her "Magnolia Feud" with Avadelle Richardson, who wrote a book entitled Night on Fire about the desegregation riots at Ole Miss in the 1960s. In one of her last coherent conversations, her grandmother gives Dani instructions to find out about the history of the two. With her friend Indri, and her NOT friend, Avadelle's grandson Mac, she works through the clues her grandmother has left her, talks to others who were involved in Civil Rights work at the time, and finds out a lot about her African-American heritage that her parents didn't think she was ready to discover.
Strengths: I thought that this had a nice balance of racial identities involved in telling a complicated story. Grandma Beans is (as identified in the book) Black, but Dani's mother is White. Avadelle is White, and one of the characters in her book is a White college girl who comes to help out in the 1960s, and stays with a Black family. All too often, Civil Rights stories are told from one side or the other, but by making Dani have a shared heritage, we see that different sides both contributed.
Weaknesses: This was on the long side (at over 350 pages), which isn't a surprise given Vaught's primarily Young Adult body of work, but since historical fiction is a hard sell, a leaner book would be easier to get children to read.
What I really think: I was all set to by this until there was an unexpectedly sad occurrence at the end of the book that just didn't need to be there. Now I'll pass.