Monday, December 10, 2007

Margaret McMullan's "When I Crossed No-Bob"

Margaret McMullan is the author of four novels: When I Crossed No-Bob (2007), How I Found the Strong (2004), In My Mother's House (2003), and When Warhol Was Still Alive.

She applied the "Page 99 Test" to When I Crossed No-Bob and reported the following:
Page 99 starts with a mean, yet funny stunt Pappy pulls on a passing farmer. Pappy has just reclaimed his daughter Addy, our heroine, and they are walking back home to No-Bob, Mississippi. This is during the Reconstruction and everyone is looking for food. Pappy knows there'’s nothing to eat back at home. Addy watches as Pappy cheats a farmer out of his two goats by rubbing snuff in their snouts and telling the farmer the goats have “black snout” which is a “catching sickness.”

Addy knows her father is mean, ruthless, and both feared and liked by all their people in the town of No-Bob. When the farmer allows Pappy to “dispose” of the goats, and Pappy chuckles, Addy rationalizes to herself that what her father has done is not stealing because the farmer agreed. “Tricking him is not the same as stealing. I say this to myself over and over, as though I am trying to talk myself into something.”

Later, Pappy tells the story of the farmer and his goats over and over, as a joke. It's a funny story and people laugh, but Addy is bothered by it. Addy learns a lot about the difference between good and mean-spirited joking throughout the book as well.

Addy’'s struggle with Pappy is at the heart of the book. There is a saying I heard in Mississippi about certain relatives: He’'s a crook, but he'’s our crook. Family loyalty often outweighs all else, including doing the right thing. But eventually, Addy must make her own decisions and her own way in No-Bob and in the world. She has to find her own inner strength to do the right thing which is much more difficult than doing nothing at all.
Read an excerpt from When I Crossed No-Bob, and learn more about the author and her books at Margaret McMullan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue