Official Review: The Whistle Stop by Bob Higginbotham

Please use this forum to discuss historical fiction books. Common definitions define historical fiction as novels written at least 25-50 years after the book's setting.
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stacie k
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Official Review: The Whistle Stop by Bob Higginbotham

Post by stacie k » 20 Sep 2018, 19:43

[Following is an official review of "The Whistle Stop" by Bob Higginbotham.]
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4 out of 4 stars
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The Whistle Stop by Bob Higginbotham is a fictional coming-of-age story centered on Dale Wickenhoffer (Wick) and his gang of friends. The setting is rural Mississippi during the turbulent 1960’s. Having moved to a new community at the age of ten, Wick quickly identified with the local country boys who would become his cohorts in adventure and life-long friends. I expected an entertaining tale of light-hearted fun and youthful escapades. Indeed, there were plenty of laugh-out-loud moments along the way, but I was surprised by so much more. Intertwined with Wick’s personal story is a mystery. Shad Brady is somewhat of a hero to the gang, always taking time to talk with them and being concerned for their welfare. But Shad harbors a mysterious past. He had a family at one time but always dodged the subject when asked about them. Now the FBI have shown up looking for Shad and asking questions. What was Shad hiding? What happened to his family? Wick and his gang are intent upon finding the answers and coming to the aid of their trusted mentor and friend.

There were several things that I appreciated about this book. First, Higginbotham has done a masterful job of capturing the confusion and excitement that adolescent boys experience. Since he uses the first-person style of narration, the reader gets a peek into the mind of a young boy who is “chock full of hormones with a taste for adventure” and has an occasional “deficit of common sense.” The humor he employed kept me interested in the story. In addition, Higginbotham surprised me with several instances of figurative language in the midst of what is primarily simple, straightforward language often presented through dialogue. For example: “I was an ice cube in Death Valley” is how Wick describes himself at a vulnerable, deer-in-the-headlights moment. Finally, I was pleased at the values portrayed in Wick’s family. He had a praying mom and a loving, involved dad who modeled and taught honesty and trustworthiness.

The pacing of the story is an area that I felt could be improved. The beginning was an introduction to the boys and a sampling of their adventures. The plotline of the mystery did not get fully underway until midway through the book. From there, the pace really picked up and I was fully engaged with getting my questions answered until the end. The second concern I had while reading was the rather serious content in the plot for what appears at first glance to be a light-hearted and fun yarn. I will refrain from sharing details so as not to reveal spoilers, but beware that kidnapping, murder, gang-rape, and death are involved, though not explicitly described.

Wick’s character undergoes a transformation as the story progresses, as would be expected from a coming-of-age story. From a child at the age of ten to a married adult at the age of twenty-five, the reader witnesses him move from an age of innocence to one of mature accountability.

The Whistle Stop appears to have been professionally edited as I found very few errors which were hardly worth mentioning. Despite the uneven pacing and the serious content in the midst of youthful mischief, I award 4 out of 4 stars. The realistic (and humorous) portrayal of adolescent boys in a rural town in the 60’s was done with excellence. I recommend this book to older teenagers and adults who love boys and their adventures, or anyone who enjoys watching a mystery unfold. To those who are sensitive to kidnapping, murder, or rape, you may want to pass on this one.

The Whistle Stop
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Post by Debjani Ghosh » 21 Sep 2018, 08:36

I was drawn to the book both by its cover and title. This book contains a coming-of-age story plus a mystery both of which are perfectly done according to your review. Despite the slow pace at the beginning, if you are willing to give it a 4 out of 4, then I am willing to check out this book. Thanks for the review!

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Post by mac83 » 21 Sep 2018, 09:17

I found your review interesting. This book kind of reminds me of a Huckleberry Finn type story as well as the Sandlot and another movie I watched when I was younger. I think this book sounds enjoyable. I like the part of Shad have a mysterious past and the boys wanting to find out about it.
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Post by Allyseria » 21 Sep 2018, 09:26

Thank you for your review :) It sounds like an interesting coming-of-age book set in the 60s. I haven't read a book based in that period before so I think I might enjoy it :)

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Post by kandscreeley » 21 Sep 2018, 10:23

This sounds like quite the book. I like that it's a coming of age story with a mystery thrown in. It's too bad that the pacing isn't a bit better. Many times it's hard to get involved in the story when it starts off slowly, at least for me. Thanks for a great review.
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Post by HollandBlue » 21 Sep 2018, 10:30

Reminds me of a modern day 'Tom Sawyer' with plenty of mystery and mayhem. Thanks for your review!
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Post by lazybekah » 21 Sep 2018, 13:21

This sounds like something I would really enjoy. I love books that show friendships and loyalty, and it sounds like there's an exciting plot that goes along with it. The details you quoted and included tell me this must be a well-written book! I love characters with depth and it sounds like it goes there.

I will be adding this to my to-read list. Thank you!

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Post by jcoad » 21 Sep 2018, 16:28

Sounds like a great book. Not quite Stand by Me, but sounds like the type of Stephen King stories I love without the dead bodies. I will track this book down and thanks for the great review!

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Post by gen_g » 23 Sep 2018, 04:54

This sounds like a great character-driven piece, which is in short supply lately. I do enjoy a nice coming-of-age story sometimes, and I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for the great review, stacie k!

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Post by Julie Green » 23 Sep 2018, 07:38

This book sounds excellent. I like a good coming of age story with a bit of depth. Great review!

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Post by sonya01 » 24 Sep 2018, 02:04

I appreciate your comments about the strong contrast between the first half of the book, being relatively wholesome and innocent, to the second with all the violence and trauma. Sometimes that change of pace can be quite engaging tho, so it might not be a bad thing. Will have to read the book and find out! I enjoyed your review - thank you.

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Post by Kat Berg » 24 Sep 2018, 23:56

I am a sucker for good wit and mystery. I love the phrasing "deficit of common sense." For whatever reason, it captured my attention and I think I would possibly enjoy this book, although I am hesitant a little because of the gang rape. It is a bit of a relief that it is not graphic, but I still would be unsure because of that subject matter. Thank you for the informational review.

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Post by crediblereading2 » 25 Sep 2018, 10:27

Wow! This is such an interesting plot. It reminds me somewhat of the Hardy Boys. I hope that Shad is not in trouble with the law and that things will work out well for him. Thank you for a comprehensive review of this book.

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Post by 1ditzyrn » 28 Sep 2018, 11:25

I don't usually like books that are slow to start but with your review giving such high marks to the rest of the story, I may have to give this book a try. Thanks for the review!!

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Post by Shrabastee » 02 Oct 2018, 06:49

A group of adolescent boys and an element of unsolved mystery? I am reminded of Stephen King books you know. It is too bad about the pacing and the slow start (Stephen King again), but I will try this one. Thanks for the insightful review!
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