Title: The Legacy of Gloria Russell
Author: Sheri Gilbert
Series : no, its a stand alone
In Short: Gloria was Billy James’s best friend. She was different. She was stubborn, pushy, and curious, and loved to stir up their small town community. She even spoke to Satan, the immigrant hermit who lived in the woods. In Kelseyville nobody had anything to do with Satan – but Gloria spoke to him. And then she died. As Billy James tries to come to terms with Gloria’s death he has to confront fear and prejudice in himself and those around him and learn a lesson that Gloria is still teaching him.
What I thought: Well, of course the first thing that comes to mind is To Kill a Mockingbird. This little book is heavily influenced by that story, and references it directly at one point. You pick up the similarities as soon as you start reading it, even in the voice of the narrator. Its hardly fair to compare any book to such a universally admired classic. But The Legacy of Gloria Russell does stand on its own.
It is a first person narrative, and it works. Billy James is a convincing young boy trying to walk that dangerous path between conforming and doing right. He is a thoughtful, sensitive and honest narrator. The other characters are also strong: Billy’s bully of a brother, his very tough mother, and even more impressive grandmother. The unfortunately named hermit, Satan, is wonderful. I dont want to say too much about him. Much of the magic of the book is discovering Satan through Billy James’s eyes.
Once or twice Billy’s voice slips a bit into an author’s voice, if that makes sense. Particularly when he describes the scenery, which is always tough to do with a first person narrator.
One aspect of this book which differs from To Kill a Mockingbird is how it touches on the supernatural. I cannot be more explicit than that – its very well done, woven lightly through the whole without ever becoming what I would call a standard fantasy book.
I’ve been putting the new books I’ve read into “donate to the library” and “keep it myself” piles. This one is going on the “keep it” pile.