I picked this one up on a whim after seeing the book online several times and then meeting the author. I never tell authors I’m doing this anymore. That way I don’t have to report if the book sucks. In this case, I was pleasantly surprised! Here’s my two cents:
I confess, as I read this book, the title didn’t make a lot of sense to me. I expected the colorful figure of Virgil Creech to be the main attraction. He’s an overlooked last child of a brood of nine brothers from a not-so-savory family, and he behaves accordingly. Fortunately, a few people take an interest in the young miscreant, including the even more colorful figure of Colonel Clarence J. Birdwhistle, formerly of his Majesty’s service. Newly arrived in Portsong, Georgia, Col. Birdwhistle comes into contact with young Virgil—quite literally, in fact, which starts the series of events related in this book. But Virgil takes a backseat to Col. Birdwhistle, and even to young Henry Lee, classmate of Virgil, who undergoes a change of his own as a result of the encounter. It seemed to me the book could almost be called A Series of Remarkable Events in Portsong, for by the end of the book, the whole town has been turned on its ear. In the title’s defense, Virgil is the catalyst that sets it all in motion.
I was completely charmed by this story. Portsong is the town everyone wants to live in. And Myers paints it and its residents beautifully—from the outspoken preacher, Josiah Crane, to the genteel chairperson of the Ladies Historical Society, Louise Prattlematt. Creech is given enough humanity to overcome his naughty schoolboy stereotype and endear him to readers. But it is Birdwhistle who carries the story. Charming, witty, self-assured, and just a bit vulnerable, I would love to sit down with him over a cup of tea and enjoy a long conversation.
It is Myer’s gift with language, however, that made this book so enjoyable. I’ve marked dozens of passages, but I’ll include just a few here to make my point:
“Every thought that pushed through his mind stacked mad upon mad like blocks on a wall.”
“It dawned on Henry that this problem of the old man wasn’t going away. It was like a boy trying to tuck in a bed sheet. Every time one corner was tucked securely under the mattress, the other side pulled out.”
“Well, I wanted to see the world, and soon most of the world would be between me and my hometown of Chelmsly. I was both excited and terrified at that moment.”
“The dabbled mix of grays and browns in his (dog’s) coat flowed together unevenly, as if a failed artist had poured paints over him and walked away before getting the portrait right.”
I would qualify this as children’s literature, appropriate for children ages nine and up, but I think adults who enjoy quirky, sweetly told tales would appreciate it even more than children. This is a self-published book worth reading—and I don’t get to say that often enough. Two thumbs up.