The next in a long line of keep-me-sane-on-the-road audiobooks is The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis. I absolutely, unequivocally adored Elijah of Buxton on audiobook, and I put it in the hands of everyone I can, so I figured that The Madman of Piney Woods would be just as enjoyable.
While it is a good book, I can’t say that I enjoyed it as much as Elijah. Benji is black and lives in Buxton with his mother, father, and twin younger siblings who are genius carpenters. Red is white and lives in Chatham with his father, the judge, and his grandmother, an elderly Irish virago who likes whacking Red with her cane. Benji starts out as a less-than-admirable character, playing nasty tricks on his siblings and being totally self-involved. Red is much more likeable, as he is trying his best to get along with his grandmother and keep his friends from getting hurt.
I found myself getting impatient with the book because over half the story is told from two different perspectives, but the two boys seem to have nothing in common. Truthfully, I was tempted to give up on it, but kept listening because of my interest in Red’s character. Both boys encounter the madman of Piney Woods, and learn that he isn’t what they’ve thought he is all their lives. But, the story really starts getting good when the boys finally (FINALLY) meet. Benji’s character develops in much more admirable ways, the boys begin to explore each other’s cultures, and Red learns what makes his grandmother tick, really bringing the book to life. When they are forced to deal with a life and death situation, the boys truly shine.
I enjoyed the second half of the book much more than the first. The two narrators, Kirby Heyborne and J.D. Jackson do a good job of bringing to the life the characters. I especially enjoyed Kirby Heyborne’s Irish grandmother narration. This is a good book for readers of historical fiction, and it also touches on Civil War history, for any military buffs.