Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Far From Good by Stephen Van Zant

    A town divided by racial prejudice . . . When his school year draws to a close, Sam Cray looks forward to a carefree summer with his friends. However, now that his parents are divorced, it’s up to him to help his mom and tend to their rundown house. To make matters worse, their new neighbor is Coach Ray Bedford, a control freak known for his harsh manner on the football field and occasional racist remarks.

   When angry words between Sam’s friend, Dewayne, and Coach Bedford turn to blows, Sam is called to testify in a sensational trial that threatens to divide a small Kentucky town. Sam’s difficult choices and the trial’s aftermath set events in motion that put his life in danger. When a summer ending canoe trip with friends turns deadly, will Sam return alive?

My review:

     This book is juvenile fiction and is actually classified as "coming of age fiction", but as is usually the case with juvenile fiction that I read, I still enjoyed it.

     The book is set in 1975 in a town where there is still a lot of racial prejudice. The author shows a very realistic picture of what life was like in such a town with such prejudice, and weaves his story around those circumstances. I have to admit, I am so used to it being the way it is now, that it seems so far out to imagine that it was like that once, so the book was more than entertaining, it was a reminder of how far we have come as a nation.

  I liked the characters in the book, especially the main character, Sam. He wanted to do the right thing, but didn't always do so, and his attempts to right a wrong put himself and others in danger. I really enjoyed the book. This is the author's first book he has written, and he has done a great job.

  One reason I review juvenile books is so I can find good books to pass on to my nieces and nephews. This is one I know they will enjoy, and while being an interesting read for them, will also educate them on how this country used to be with racial prejudice.

About the author:

Attorney Stephen Van Zant played varsity basketball and football in high school and was a Kentucky Governor’s Scholar. In 1990 he graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a B.A. in English from the University of Kentucky. In 1993 he graduated from the University of Louisville School of Law, becoming the fourteenth lawyer in his family’s history.

He is now a partner in the law firm of Bell, Hess & Van Zant, PLC (www.bhvzlaw.com). His interest and experience in sports has led him to provide color commentary for radio broadcasts of high school basketball games. He and his wife, Kelli, have four children – Zack, Katie, Abbey, and Adam – and live in Oldham County, Kentucky.

Visit the website for the book at farfromgood.com

Far From Good is available from Winepress Publishing.

Thanks to Winepress for the review copy.

Book excerpts:

Excerpt 1: “I hope that Cray boy’s a respectful kid.” Coach Bedford heaped scrambled eggs onto his plate before assaulting them with pepper. “I liked the Hamiltons when they lived next door, at least when they could keep up with their yard work. They were just the kind of neighbors I like: quiet, respectful, and—” “—nearly dead,” Larry said. “What was Mr. Hamilton? Ninety-five when he died?” Coach Bedford poured a generous dollop of gravy on his three biscuits. “I’ll have a talk with the Cray boy as soon as I can. There’s no substitute for bein’ proactive about this sort of thing. The last thing I want is a little hellion livin’ next door with nobody but a single mom to discipline him.”

Excerpt 2: The memory of Coach Bedford falling to the ground kept replaying in his mind. Had Dewayne killed him? Moonlight broke from the trees, shimmering across the lawn like a ghost. Sam sucked in a quick breath. Coach Bedford lay face up on his front lawn. Meredith knelt beside him, her face in her hands.