3 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
Blackberries Are Red When Green by Keith Frohreich is a historical fiction set in the country near a little town called Twin Rivers, Indiana. Kurt was a young boy who lived on a farm with his parents and two older brothers. Unfortunately, his father suffered from bouts of depression and fits of anger. Kurt, his older brother Kyle, and his mother were beaten because of his father’s short temper. Subsequently, Kurt did not mourn him when his dad passed away while he was still a young boy.
A year after his father died, when he was ten, Kurt happened upon Dutch, a black man who had retired from working as a Pullman porter. He was fishing on the bank close to Jake’s home. Dutch taught him many things but mostly what it was like to live as a black person, including experiencing prejudice. Kurt grew to love Dutch but found out soon not everyone felt the same way about him. This became abundantly clear when he was struck by a car while walking home one day and even clearer after the first of two murders occurred close to where they lived.
This book is written as a memoir with Kurt doing the narrating. Mr. Frohreich grew up on a small farm in Indiana, and many of the descriptions of living on a farm seem to be taken from his memories and are believable. He deftly relays the racial climate and life during the mid-twentieth century. He even provides some details of the earlier history of the United States through Kurt’s ancestors’ experiences. His narrative is interesting and easy to understand and includes a twist, which I was not expecting.
The racial events of the time, especially those relating to black history, are portrayed through Dutch, who goes into detail about his life working as a Pullman porter. Kurt’s mother asked Kurt if he thought he would have liked Dutch less if his skin had been darker. His reply was, “ ‘Nope. I met a nice man early this summer on the riverbank. He could be red like green blackberries for all I care.’ ” (This was where the title came from.) His message that the color of the skin shouldn’t matter is my favorite part of the book.
The author weaves some humor into the story from time to time, which I love. An example of this is when the preacher is baptizing people in the river, “I didn’t much care for one of those sinners, so it would have been fine by me if the preacher held him down longer. There was nothing saintly about him.”
Quite a bit of history of the railroad and Pullman porters is described to the reader. Personally, I felt it was a little too comprehensive and slowed down the story somewhat. However, there are readers who would love reading about this aspect of American history. I also felt like there were other times when the story seemed to drag, and this was my least favorite part of the novel. However, it got a lot more interesting once the first murder occurred.
Sadly, I found a few too many grammatical and punctuation errors in the story. These were not distracting, but the book could use another round of editing.
Although I enjoyed this story, a star has to be taken away because of the errors and the slowness of the novel at times. Subsequently, Blackberries Are Red When Green achieves a rating of 3 out of 4 stars.
This book is recommended for anyone who enjoys historical fiction that deals with farm life, friendship, and racial issues, with some black history incorporated. Readers who appreciate reading about railroads and Pullman porters would also enjoy this story. If your favorite tale is a thrilling, fast-paced novel, then you might want to look elsewhere. There is rare profanity, murder, and one instance of attempted rape. These were not very graphic; however, it is unsuitable for young children. With the approval of the parent, it should be appropriate for a teenager.
Blackberries Are Red When Green
View: on Bookshelves | on Amazon