A young boy in 1959 Memphis takes over his friend Rat’s paper route for the month of July. For any other boy this would not be a problem, but this boy stutters and has a hard time communicating with people. They often assume he is slow or stupid or try to finish his sentences for him. On the paper route he meets Mr. Spiro, a merchant marine. Mr. Spiro likes to chat with the boy and doesn’t mind that it might take a while to get the words out. Each week with the paper collection he gives him a piece of a dollar bill with a word on it: Student, Servant, Seller, Seeker: the four parts of your soul. He also meets a beautiful but sad housewife who drinks too much and is in an unhappy marriage. Then there is TV boy who just stares at a silent TV all day long; it isn’t until the end of the summer that we learn he is deaf and learning to read lips.
The paper route is set against the backdrop of this boy’s home life. His parents are gone a lot and he is being raised by Mam, the Black housekeeper. Mam doesn’t treat him any different because of his stutter either. She helps him and guides him. There is trouble with a junk man who seems to be connected to Mam and who is taking the boy’s things. He also finds his birth certificate and realizes the man he calls his father is not his father. But he realizes this man makes the time to play pitch and catch with him and be his father even though he doesn’t have to. We finally learn the boy’s name at the end of the book. He never says it because it is impossible for him to say with his stutter.
This is a wonderful story about a young boy dealing with a difficulty. I like the fact that it is based on the author’s own life and struggles with his stutter. He never overcomes it, but he does learn to live with it. I thought the racial issues worked themselves into the story very well. This was the segregated South on the eve of integration and racial tensions were everywhere. I did think the story with the junk man seemed a little extraneous to the main story, but it didn’t take away from the story. I would recommend this book.