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Upon graduating from Harvard University in the field of molecular biology, Byron MacKenzie recalls the adventuresome and traumatic events of her childhood in a Louisiana backwater town during the social and political turmoil of the ‘60’s that shaped her future and her quest for integrity and truth.
Romantically named after the 19th century English poet, Byron is “different,” to her mother’s distress. “Can you imagine a young girl who keeps snakes and frogs in her bedroom and collects insects for a hobby? When she’s not in school, she spends all her time mucking around in the swamp.”
Byron’s friends are unique – JOSINE CARRIE, whom Byron helps escape from her abusive father intent on killing her and her unborn child; ARISTOPHANES JONES, A Black teenage boy whose mother has a mysterious past. Jones has ambitions to go to college, but he must survive the dangers of attending an integrated high school to get there. TOUSSAINT McIVER, a trapper and hunter, and MADAME JOSEPHINE, a voodoo priestess who has far-reaching psychological powers.
Timothy Maher, Byron’s junior high school science teacher, is among the most influential adults in her life. He encourages her independent studies about the bayou swamps and opens a new world of thought regarding the nature of man and his origin. Extreme violence erupts over his teachings that are not acceptable to the religious bigotry of the community, and the national media descends on the small town of Norman.
Byron by Robert M. Tucker is a fascinating, riveting and intelligent novel that will draw the reader in and mesmerize them with its beautifully composed style, and its thought-provoking, touching and memorable story. Set in the 1960s, Byron builds an extraordinary commentary of what it might be like to have lived in those times and experienced the unique culture, people, beliefs and overall life in the sultry swamps of Louisiana.
Our protagonist is a young girl named after the poet, Lord Byron. Unlike her mother, she loves living in the swamps and embraces all that it offers. She is also color blind when it comes to who she chooses for her friends, and this adds to the rising tensions of the town and the era.
Byron is a captivating character. She is warm, friendly and her endless curiosity sees her collecting spiders, snakes, frogs and more from the swamps. Like most tomboys, she dresses in a relaxed practical style, has a dog that follows her everywhere, and baulks at the idea of wearing a dress and becoming more lady-like. That’s not all there is to love about her. She is happy, kind and accepts everyone she meets for who they are without judgement. Although the book is set back in another time, Byron is a great role model for younger readers.
In fact, there is a similarity between Byron and Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird. The pair meet injustices eye to eye and have no qualms about exploring their world regardless of social norms and expectations. If you loved Scout, you are going to adore Byron.
The author creates the other characters in this novel with equal realism and enthusiasm. Byron’s science teacher, Mr Maher, will be a favorite with readers due to his passion for his chosen profession and his ability to communicate that to his students. Robert M. Tucker’s skill for capturing the essence of a personality is remarkable and makes this book all the more enjoyable. He is also a master of descriptive text and dialogue.
This is a thrilling, beautiful and haunting novel of a small Southern town in America with all the superstitions, narrow-mindedness and intriguing ways of the old South. Like the heat of the south and the slow-paced lifestyle, Byron will seep into your being, captivate and cause you to take a long, deep breath. While there is plenty of action, the narrative will gently draw you in and seduce you. Readers will find there are so many layers in this novel they will want to read it over and over again. It is definitely going to take pride of place on bookshelves and become a family and reading favorite. Byron by Robert M. Tucker comes highly recommended by Artisan Book Reviews. Book reviewed by S. Day for Artisan Book Reviews.
ABR Book Excellence Award Winner for best Southern Coming of Age & Historical Fiction
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