Cover image for Blue hole : a novel
Blue hole : a novel
Gearino, G. D. (G. Dan), 1953-
Publication Information:
New York : Simon & Schuster, [1999]

Physical Description:
224 pages ; 23 cm
Reading Level:
1040 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 7.1 13.0 35265.

Reading Counts RC High School 7.8 18 Quiz: 20597 Guided reading level: NR.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



A darkly humorous novel of the South in the 1960s follows two teenagers as they search for a missing boy believed to be living on a hippy commune.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

It is the summer of 1969 in Barrington, Ga., and Charley Selkirk, a 17-year-old white Southerner, is at a critical point in his life in reporter and columnist Gearino's third novel (after the popular What the Deaf Mute Heard; Counting Coup). During the first year of school integration, Charley is booted out of school just weeks before his graduation because he aggressively tackles the team's star quarterback, after the quarterback bullies a new black player during spring drills. Also abandoned by his longtime girlfriend, Charley lives with his withdrawn mother in a house haunted by the drowning death of his younger brother years ago. Then, by chance, Charley meets Tallasee, a Barrington native who is back in town after years as a model and photographer and a brief, unhappy marriage to a rock musician. Tallasee hires Charley as an assistant while she completes a book of portraits of mountain women, but it is as partners that they undertake a search for a missing boy, the grandson of one of the elderly women. Their quest takes them to a squalid commune set in the hills near Barrington, where Lucas, a Vietnam vet tortured by flashback memories, befriended the missing boy. When it becomes clear that the boy is dead, everyone is convinced that Lucas is guilty, but Charley thinks otherwise, and he sets a trap for a killer whose unmasking sends shock waves through the little town. Though his pacing is sometimes uneven, Gearino strongly but subtly evokes the turbulent summer of '69 in small-town Georgia, coming at racial tension, the counterculture and the legacy of Vietnam from unexpected angles and finding redemption in Charley and Tallasee's unusual friendship, the unburdening of family secrets and the bittersweet triumph of truth and justice. 7-city author tour. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Its 1969, Charleys Southern high school is integrating, and hes just gotten himself expelled. Then he and a friend start looking for a missing boy, and Charley realizes that things are not what they seem in his little town. Gearinos successful What the Deaf Mute Saw has already been made into a TV movie. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter One Frances Selkirk finally shed her secret that summer, but three people died before she did. She regretted only two of the deaths, however. The third made her happy. She was a widow and mother who disproved the widely held notion that a small town surrenders its confidences readily, that among its citizens there is little that isn't known or soon won't be. It's true that a small town gives its inconsequential secrets a wide circulation: in beauty shops, barber shops, bait shops, or anywhere that encourages lingering, the minor indiscretions of a town's inhabitants are reported quickly, commented upon firmly, compared to other past indiscretions for evidence of a pattern, and finally archived in the memory of the few people for whom gossip is a higher calling rather than a softly malicious way to fill a few idle moments. A real secret, however, can stay buried for years. Until it was set free by an anonymous, luckless boy, Frances Selkirk determinedly and successfully kept a secret from the other residents of Barrington, Georgia. It was an old and weighty secret, too weighty, in fact, to be borne by a woman who was barely thirty years old when her tragedy struck. The secret bowed and isolated her for a long time, made her seem aged and unapproachable. It was so palpable a force in her life that its presence was almost like a third member of the family when she and her son sat together. Without the weight of that secret, she could have remarried and perhaps lived a happy and fruitful life, for she was an attractive woman and had, as she eventually proved, an uncommon strength and fortitude. Or she could have moved away from the secret, simply bundled her clothes and son into her car and driven to another town to start fresh. But she didn't, because for years the secret drew the verve from her as effectively as a poultice draws poison. Besides, she couldn't bear being away from his grave. So she stayed in Barrington, a town set in the low hills north of Atlanta where she had come as a young bride. Her son, Charley, grew up there and was on the lip of becoming a man before she finally shed her secret and reembraced life. Little is known of the boy who set everything into motion. His was a short life and the things that marked it are lost to history. No one even learned his name. But what can be said of him is that in death he achieved what was unlikely to have ever occurred in life: he became the object of attention from many people, among them state officials, police investigators, prosecuting attorneys, newspaper editors, and television reporters. Much is known about Charley Selkirk, however. He was seventeen years old that summer and coming up to eighteen quickly. The other boy was about that age, too, but beyond that the two of them had little in common. Where Charley was bright and thoughtful, the other boy was vaporous and na&239;ve, a barely-there presence in the lives of the few people who remembered him. Where Charley felt a visceral need to stay close to his mother, despite her inattention and neglect, the other boy had left his home for reasons no one ever remembered him explaining. Where Charley would grow into a fine man, the other boy wouldn't grow at all, because, of course, he's dead. In short, little can be said about the other boy, but much can be said about Charley. So, this is Charley's story. In truth, Charley was bored and unhappy and angry at just about everyone that summer. He was at that precise age when he'd begun to develop adult sensibilities but hadn't quite learned the benefits of treachery and malice, which are the usual tools adults use to make their way in the world. He had been kicked out of school just a couple of months before graduation, had no job or even the promise of one, and was beginning to understand how perfectly bizarre his childhood had been. His girlfriend had rejected him, his fellow white people thought he was a fool, black people didn't trust him, and a whole staff of football coaches was ready to kill him. His food didn't taste good, his truck wouldn't run right, and he hadn't caught a fish in ages. Oh, and he was still a virgin, too. He blamed Baby Girl Sanderson, his girlfriend, for most of that, especially the last. The way Charley saw it, Baby Girl's problem was that she couldn't decide whether she wanted to be a homecoming queen or a sexually liberated social activist. So, her solution was to be an activist pretty much all the time except when he wanted her most to be one, meaning, of course, when they were parked alone somewhere, whereupon she suddenly would remember the unspoken responsibility shared by every Barrington High School homecoming queen to remain unsullied and pure. As a result, he spent most of his last year in school listening to Baby Girl preach the virtues of equality between the races and -- this being 1969 -- the notion that love is all you need; meanwhile, Charley got the raw end of the first and none of the fruit of the second. It didn't help that virtually every black male student that year suddenly decided he didn't want to play football anymore. The black schools had been closed at the end of the previous year and their students accepted into the white schools, which wasn't nearly as progressive as it sounds because there was only a couple of hundred black students anyway and when the Barrington zipper plant closed and took its property-tax money back up north with it, the school board decided it could both save money and put the federal Justice Department off the scent by simply integrating. The first salt-and-pepper year for the schools in Barrington, then, began in September 1968, and the town saw an immediate payoff when the football team burned through its conference schedule and made it to the state championship game, which it lost only because a referee didn't call pass interference even though Charley was practically mugged in the end zone by a linebacker on the last play of the game. But racial harmony is easy when you're winning games and you're involved in a sport that requires so many players that no one feels left out. Basketball, however, was quite another matter. The school only dressed twelve players a season, and the basketball coach, reluctant to cut any white boys who'd made the team the previous year, decided that he'd only take a sufficient number of black boys to fill the positions left open by graduation, juvenile-court convictions, or dumbness so chronic that it prevented an athlete from meeting even the minimal academic requirements for participation in sports. There were two of the first and one each of the other two that year, meaning that there was a grand total of four spots open on the team. The problem -- as was clear to Charley or anyone paying even a little bit of attention and unencumbered by modern values that discouraged any suggestion that one race might be better at something than another -- was that the worst ballplayer among the black kids was far better than the best white kid that the coach could put on the floor. The white players could see it, the black players could see it, anyone except the most willfully blind fool in the world could see it. And the coach was that fool. The black students had the perfect Sixties reaction: they boycotted. The four of them who had been issued basketball uniforms returned them to the coach, who promptly gave them to some of the no-jumping white boys who'd washed out during tryouts. So the team was all white and the crowds at the games were all white, and, by the end of the season, the won-loss record was pretty much all white too, which, of course, means all losses. No matter: Barrington High School had always had mediocre basketball teams, so that carried the comfort of the familiar. Besides, it gave the old men who hang around in crossroads stores and gas stations something to complain about. Still, everyone had liked having a winning football team. As a result, the boycott became a serious matter when it was extended into spring football drills. To Charley's dismay, Baby Girl was right in the middle of it. She'd never learned a thing about football, despite having served as a cheerleader for several years -- mostly because it gave her the social sanction to twitch her barely covered, almost-liberated delicious little butt in public, he suspected -- but from the way she carried on about the boycott, she must have thought it was the most dramatic moment in civil rights history since Selma. She was constantly declaiming about the rightness of the whole thing, exhorting her classmates to acknowledge its moral purity, and generally carrying on in the most annoying fashion. Charley ignored her as best he could because the boycott seemed to be working just fine without his involvement, and he was just a couple of months away from graduating anyway -- meaning that it all had the flavor of someone else's business. But Baby Girl was his girlfriend, or so it usually seemed as they clinched in his truck at night and he whispered things in her ear, hoping to hit the right combination of pledge and endearment that would lead him to the promised land. So he should have known it was impossible to not get dragged into the whole mess. Nevertheless, he might have avoided it if two other things hadn't happened. The first was a request from the school's football coach that Charley participate in spring drills, even though his playing days were over. "You don't have to run the sprints or anything, just fill in wherever I need you when we go through the formations," the coach explained to Charley. "What with the boycott and all, I want to make sure I've got some hard hitters out there." They were words he'd later regret. The second was the appearance of Leander Jackson Jr. at spring practice. Leander was a preacher's son, a soft and large-bodied creature whose natural habitat was the library and the chorus room. He'd never played football before, as much as anyone could remember, and nothing in his sweet nature would lead anyone to believe that there was the killer instinct of a defensive lineman buried in there somewhere. He hung around with girls a lot, made good grades, was fussy about his clothes, and was a member of several of those after-school clubs in which students sit around and talk clumsily to each other in foreign languages or argue about which Broadway musical to stage. In short, if someone had asked a hundred Barrington residents to guess who would be least likely to be standing in the middle of the football field on the first day of spring practice, equipment still creaky-new and bewilderment apparent to all, every one of them would have scratched their heads and said, "You mean, aside from Leander Jackson Junior?" So Leander was no football player. What he was, however, was black. Leander's problem -- and eventually, Charley's problem -- was that his father saw the boycott as a divisive and unnecessary move. Leander Sr. was a courtly old gentleman and typical of many black ministers of the time, as far as Charley could tell. He had an almost saintly belief in the inner goodness of people, even white people, and a fundamental faith in the notion that one turned the other cheek in the face of provocation. The boycott had been widely debated in Barrington's black community -- not that white folks knew or even cared much -- and Leander Sr. had preached against it. When it moved ahead anyway, he had but one gesture of healing and reconciliation left to him: he had his son join the football team to show that even in tense times, the races could find a way to live together. Somebody, however, forgot to tell the white boys that Leander Jr. was a racial olive branch. They mistook him for a punching bag. "You've got to look after him," Baby Girl told Charley a couple of days after practice had begun. "They'll kill him." "They're not going to kill him," Charley said, knowing where this was going but hoping to head it off anyway. "Anyone who's new gets a bad time. It's like an initiation." She didn't buy it. "No, it's not. It wasn't like that in the fall when the other colored boys were playing. The white boys didn't dare treat any of them like they're treating Leander." Charley knew she was right. They'd had a few pushing matches at the early practices, but it was clear right away that the black players were big, tough, quick, and proud. He'd noticed how quickly a certain sense of racial equality had settled over the team after the white boys had to line up a few times against someone who'd given them a forearm to the face mask on the previous play, then stood over them and said, "Man, I'm sure sorry about the way my arm got integrated with your head like that." Charley thought Leander could have done himself some good if he'd simply lowered his head and planted his helmet into somebody's gut a couple of times. He considered suggesting this to Leander early on, but knew it was pointless: he might as well have asked Leander to change the color of his eyes. Leander was a mild, affable guy with no anger in him. Charley would have practiced a few tackling drills on the father who'd insisted that he be there as some symbol, but Leander wasn't even mad at him. He claimed to understand his father's point, although it was lost on everyone else, black and white alike. The first couple of practices were a sort of dry run of torment. Leander had his regular clothes thrown in the shower, meaning that when the first day's drills were finished, he had nothing to change into; he was told to lace his shoulder pads loosely for comfort, so that the first time he hit a blocking dummy he looked like a big goof when they slipped off sideways; and somebody poured baby powder into his helmet at one point, which prompted great merriment when he took it off during a water break and his hair had become snowy white. "Hey, Leander, how you gonna break the boycott if you ain't black anymore?" crowed Donny Chambers, the team quarterback and torment organizer. Everyone else cackled enormously; this passed for high humor among Charley's teammates. But it was clear things would not remain this benign. Leander had already taken a late hit or two after a play concluded, and it was only a matter of time before somebody nailed him with their helmet and broke a rib. So, as Charley soon discovered, Baby Girl was right. "How am I supposed to look after him?" he asked. "If he's smart, he'll just quit. He's never going to play, anyway." "His daddy ain't going to let him quit," she replied, ignoring his question. "There's something else I'm not clear about," Charley said. "You've been behind this boycott all along, but here's Leander trying to undermine it and you want me to save him from his own foolishness. I'm having a little trouble keeping track of which side of this issue you're on." "Leander's making a statement. I may not agree with him, but he's brave to take a stand." "He's not taking a stand. His daddy is. He's just suffering the consequences." "That's why you need to look after him," Baby Girl said, giving Charley a smug smile. He was not going to win this. "You like it when people make a statement?" he asked. She nodded. "Here's a statement, then," Charley continued. "I'd like for you to get naked." That didn't work for him, either. Copyright (c) 1999 G.D.Gearino. All rights reserved.

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