Deed So


Fiction - General
440 Pages
Reviewed on 05/01/2012
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Joy Hannabass for Readers' Favorite

Katharine Russell’s “Deed So” is an amazing fictional story about young Haddie as she tells about her life growing up in Maryland in the 1960’s. Haddie is just at the coming of age stage, and like most people her age, she wants to leave her hometown and find out what big city life is like. But city life wasn’t to be for Haddie because her little hometown all of a sudden erupts at the seams, taking Haddie and the rest of its residents on a journey they never expected. A young black teen was killed by a white man. It was witnessed by Haddie, which placed her as a witness at the trial. This causes total chaos and builds tension between blacks and whites in the backdrop of the racial violence that was so evident in the 1960s. All the while Haddie was going through the usual things a young girl faces including her wild crush on older guy Gideon, who already had a girlfriend! And then Gideon ends up going to Vietnam, coming home wounded, and with secrets that would surprise everyone in their community. Haddie’s story is one that will stay with you for a long time after you finish reading the book.

“Deed So” is a well-written, delightful book to read about life in the 1960s. Having been around Haddie's age at that time, I thoroughly enjoyed reflecting back to that special time in my life and the life of my family. The historical details came to life for me as Kath Russell describes so vividly a lot of the things that were happening around the world during that time. I felt as if I was there living those days again. I fell in love with Haddie from the beginning, and I was so engrossed in the book that I couldn’t put it down until the last page. The other characters are so real and life-like that I felt they were real friends by the end of the book.

I highly recommend this book for your enjoyment. And if you were growing up in that era in history, this is a must read for you!

Stephanie D.

This book is set in politically and socially turbulent 1960s America where women and ethnic minorities are beginning to emerge from under the oppressive discrimination they have suffered until then. But the prejudices are still simmering. There are boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed. The after effects of both the Second World War and the Vietnam War are continuing to be felt too. The scene of the book’s action is Wicomico Corners in Maryland, a relatively stable and peaceful community, with few extremists. However, a handicapped white boy is beaten up by a gang of black youths, one of whom is later killed. The trial of a white man by a white jury soon has protests starting and tension mounts. Haddie is involved and shows great courage.

I had high expectations of this book and I wasn’t disappointed. Kathleen Russell is a versatile and talented author. As usual in her writing, in "Deed So" she weaves a complex and fascinating tale with apparently diverse subplots that gradually intertwine. Alongside the strains on the life of the community, family life is also severely stressed and tested. My only slight criticism of "Deed So" is that the role of narrator occasionally means that Haddie, nearly thirteen, has to be old beyond her years. She goes from talking about girly things, like a new outfit, to sketching out major social and political events and their repercussions. There are inevitable slight hints of "To Kill a Mocking Bird", given the trial at the centre, but generally this is an original, ambitious and impressive novel.

Alice D.

Agnes Hayden Bashford, better known as Haddie or "Brains", shares with the reader her life as a twelve year old back in 1962 in smalltown Wicomico Corners, Maryland. Back then in Wicomico Corners, everybody knows everybody else, doors are left unlocked, and there are only a few more residents in the area than there were back at the time of the Revolutionary War. Then African-American boys beat up one-armed teenager Elmer Slater and all hell breaks loose as Elmer's father shoots and kills Jimmy, the leader of the black boys. Sit-ins, protests at the murder trial, and the burning of local barns is only the beginning of troubled times coming to a little town. And in the middle of this is Haddie who witnesses Jimmy's murder and must testify at the trial that ensues. Haddie just wants to be a teenager with her friends Sarah Jane and Elise but she is forced to deal with the deaths of the autistic children, Terry and Ed, and with the odd behavior of her beloved older friend, Gideon, who comes back from his second tour of duty in Vietnam, wounded and highly-disturbed.

"Deed So" is a brilliant coming of age story that measures up to "To Kill a Mocking Bird" and "The Help" as it defines the culture of decades past. Author Katharine Russell uses language and dialogue to convey the issues of a time long ago when an unpopular war was beginning and people knew that the black man's time for equality had arrived. The characters of Haddie, her friends Sarah Jane and Elise, Haddie's parents and uncle, Cleo the housekeeper and caregiver to Ed and Terry, Gideon Allbright and his best friend Farley Dalton, and all other characters major and minor, are totally believable and three-dimensional as they deal with each other as human beings would. The plot moves with increasing suspense as the story comes to a surprising end. "Deed So" is a first-rate read for everyone, everywhere.

Bernadette A.

"Deed So" by Katharine A Russell is set in the early 1960’s. This was the time of racial tensions, the Vietnam War and a change in our culture. Agnes Hayden Bashford lived in a small town in Maryland. Her greatest desire was to get out of Wicomico Corners. The town was like most small towns, everyone knew everybody and their business. For the most part it was a quiet area with few racial tensions, until the shooting incident. Hattie saw several drunken young black men who were beating Elmer, a mentally and physically handicapped white male. She sent someone to get Mr. Tippett and Mr. Wathen. Mr. Slater, the boy’s father, saw his son bloodied and beaten. He used his .22 to protect his son. The end result was a death. Mr. Slater was charged with murder and Hattie was called as a witness. The once quiet community was now the center of national attention. Activists were bused in to protest the all-white jury.

Russell spent as much effort developing the secondary plots as she did the first. Russell demonstrates the effect the war had on soldiers as she develops the change in the attitude of Gideon after his return from Vietnam. One of the things that jumped out on me was the support for the black community during the trial and yet the soldiers were not supported when they came home. Russell's look at a small quiet community reminded me of my home town. The whole town was affected by events surrounding the death. At times I felt as if I was in the court room right alongside Hattie. Russell has a talent for drawing in the reader and engaging them. This tale is written in Hattie’s voice. Russell has successfully captured the era, the voice of a juvenile, and my interest. I look forward to more of her books. Kathryn Russell is a name to remember.

Anne B.

Deed So by Kath Russell brings readers a tale steeped in racism, violence and confusion for a twelve year old girl. The setting is the early 1960s in Wicomico Corners in Maryland. It was a time when light was beginning to shine on the discrimination of women and blacks. The story is told from the view point of Haddie a twelve year old girl. Wicomico is a small town. Although the town is segregated, there is little racial tension in the area, until a white man shot a black youth that was involved with a group of young black men that were beating his son, a mentally and physically challenged young white youth. The man was trying to protect his son. Soon the trial became a political hot bed and the town founds itself in the midst of civil rights activists protesting the death and the all-white jury. Haddie was a witness to the murder and had to testify.

Russell draws in the political dissatisfaction of voters during the era. She reminds us of the turmoil of the Vietnam War. Gideon joined the army and served in the War but he came home a changed person just as many young men did. This book has characters that are very interesting. The reader witnesses the strife that exists in families and between friends.

Russell has created a plot that will hold the interest of the reader. She quickly had my attention and held it to the end. There are lots of twists and turns that kept this reader turning pages. While I enjoyed the characters the part of the book that grabbed me was the way the author captured the time period. I was in grade school in a small town during those years and yet I witnessed the prejudice that existed around me. The characterization in this book is an important element. Even the town has a character. Russell is a talented author and I look forward to more books by her.