April 21, 2015
Paperback, 432 pages
Pleasantville is a predominantly black neighborhood on the northeast side of Houston, Texas. This neighborhood is notorious for its high voter turnout in most elections. The novel, Pleasantville, by Attica Locke, is set in Pleasantville, the neighborhood, in 1996 and begins with the disappearance of a young woman who had canvassed the area just before an election.
Jay Porter, a lawyer whose wife died the previous year, has been asked by the neighborhood’s de facto mayor to aid his grandson in his defense as the young man is accused of the girl’s murder. Porter almost loses his own daughter in the process of solving the mystery of who is really the heinous killer.
Pleasantville is an engaging, don’t-want-to-put-it-down book and the second book I have read by Locke. I was amazed at the intricacies of the plot and how Locke wove so many sub-plots and subjects together so wonderfully. Some of the themes she presents are Erin Brockovich-type lawsuits of the neighborhood version Big Oil and Big Chemical, race issues in a major metropolitan area in the south, political machines and the underhanded ways they win, family drama, gumshoe work, and mainly the loyalty and trust between friends and neighbors.
As much as I enjoyed Locke’s previous book, The Cutting Season, I thought Pleasantville was even better. Porter, the protagonist of this book and of Locke’s first book that I have not read entitled Black Water Rising, is such an angst-filled 40-something with all the normal foibles and insecurities, yet totally relatable and still an ethical guy. Even though he is not a criminal attorney, he takes on the defense of the young man because he knows it is the right thing to do.
Important links for Pleasantville: