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Searching for Cool, Praying for Heat is a novel of love, desire, loyalty, and honor that affects the O’Rourkes, a relocated New England textile family who face entrenched white supremacy in a small North Carolina cotton mill town in 1960.
The narrative follows multiple points of view with the main character being high-school age Brian, whose near death experience leads to love’s exciting fulfillment.
Let’s see what a few reviewers think . . . .
Jon Michael Riley has a gift for compelling narrative. In Searching for Cool, Praying for Heat, set in the early 1960s, he has woven together a coming-of-age story with one of racial injustice in rural North Carolina. As Riley does in an earlier novel, Dream the Dawn, he pulls the reader in immediately, this time with the violent rape of a young black girl. Riley proceeds to build a palpable tension between those horrified by the cruelties visited on blacks and those who see those cruelties as essential economic controls.
The story centers on a 16-year-old white Northerner, Brian O’Rourke, and his family. The O’Rourke, who have recently move to the South, don’t share the prejudices of many around them. Riley conveys Brian’s excitement about approaching adulthood, his sometimes touching, sometimes funny sexual awakening, and his confusion and sorrow that he, his family, and his black friends are victims of a hatred he can’t understand. The well-written, timely narrative will keep you reading, held by its well-drawn characters, drama and poignancy.
This is a compelling narrative that takes place in the deep south of the United States during the 1960’s a time of segregation and most of the population fighting integration every step of the way, unable to give up their view of superiority. The O’Rourkes are an Irish family from the north that had faced prejudice aimed at the Irish so they did not have the same issues with integration as their neighbors did. This of course cause a rather large dilemma and the Klan was very willing to send a message of how people should act and the social place of whites and blacks. The Klan was not known for being subtle in their messages either, but rather violent and not opposed to causalities.
The novel is centered on the 16 year old son of the O’Rourkes. He participated in sit in promoting integration not understanding why the blacks had to endure such cruelties. There was some humor amidst all the turmoil in the novel. This humor was very relatable mostly surrounding the sexual awaking of Brian. His friends and he spend many night drinking and talking about who has slept with whom in the school along with fantasizing about sleeping with the Prom Queen. They all spend time praying to God asking for one of the women they crush on to accept them into their beds or at least a make out session. It is hard not to laugh at the young boys and at ourselves for knowing how they felt.
The novel shows how a town reacts to a family helping a black family friend and their daughter after she has been raped. The town does not respond in kind after they hear about this deed. They leave severed heads in their car of animals and it only escalates from there. By the end of the novel the family has no choice but to move for fear of the next Klan attack being a deadly one. But Brian does not leave empty handed at all two of his favorite ladies a gift that he will never forget.
Jon Michael Riley balances the humor with the serious seamlessly, the novel flows and is compelling all the way through. Undoubtedly a great read for anyone.
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All Four Books
Channey Moran Series
All Four Books
Channey Moran Series
Round The South