Wolf Whistle by Lewis Nordan was the latest book read for my book group. We met this week to discuss it and the book was a great one for discussion. It is the kind of book that before joining the group, I would have wished that I had a group to discuss it with. My book group is so good; it is amazing to hear all that each person gets out of each book. We have great discussions!
Wolf Whistle is based on the true story of Emmett Till, a young black boy who was murdered in Mississippi in 1955 for supposedly whistling at a white woman. The two men responsible were acquitted for the murder. Lewis Nordan grew up near the place that all of this occurred and the story is about the murder.
The character's name who is killed is Bobo, who has come to Arrow Catcher, Mississippi to visit from Chicago. He carries a picture of a white woman in his wallet and tells the boys that it is his girlfriend in Chicago, buy it is really a picture of Hedy Lamar. "Bobo said 'That's some good white stuff.'" trying to impress his new friends. Being from Chicago, he did not realize that down in Mississippi there is no joking around about blacks and whites being together.
One day, Lady Montberclair ("she was modern") went into the Red's Goodlookin Bar and Gro to buy tampons. Apparently, Bobo's friends dared him to ask her out or something and he went on in there.
"Everybody else heard it, though, what that spotey little shine did, dared to have did. Runt Conroy sure heard it. Runt heard it and wondered if he could teach his parrot to say hubba-hubba. His parrot couldn't say a word, only sound that durn retarded parrot could make was a noise like a cash register. Maybe it could learn hubba-habba.
Gilbert Mecklin heard it, the housepainter, just about the time he was helping his blind daddy come back up the steps. Gilbert didn't have time to pay it no mind, but he heard it. Heard him whistle, too. Wolf whistle, real low."
Solon Gregg had just arrived back in town and he heard it too. He began confronting Bobo, when Lady intervened and told Bobo to go get into her car.
Solon Gregg is protrayed as the trashiest of all white trash. He sees an opportunity to make some money and goes to Lady's husband with information that she was seen riding around with a young "buck" in her car. Lady's husband is who decides that Solon needs to take care of the situation for him.
This book is somewhat difficult to read because of the violence and just plain ignorance that is portrayed. It is quite horrifying, yet the real story is also, so I don't think that it should be down-played.
There is a great deal of symbolism in the book and quite a bit of humor. It's an interesting read. It was written in 1993 and won the Southern Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction.
I recommend it!