The Girl on Rusk Street
Penny Carlile, author
When Lucille Harris, a beautiful young widow, moves into the vacant house on Rusk Street in Marshall, Texas, the lives of ten-year-old Bobbi Rogers and her two best friends are turned upside down. Neighbors begin to gossip when Lucille accepts a teaching position at all-black Bishop College and married neighbor Jim Tressell starts helping her with her garden. Bobbi takes piano lessons from Lucille, and they become friends. She also likes Jim because he's nice to Lucille. When Lucille is murdered, all eyes turn to Jim who has no alibi. Only two people believe he's innocent--his brilliant but inexperienced lawyer Rufus Cornelius and Bobbi. Set against the backdrop of the 1960 presidential election and the early days of the civil rights movement, The Girl on Rusk Street is a look back at what is sometimes called a "simpler time"--and it serves as a reminder that simpler times were often anything but simple.
An inquisitive, precocious girl grapples with the sometimes questionable actions of adults in Carlile’s debut novel. In June 1960, 10-year-old Bobbi Rogers looks forward to building forts with her best friends, Katie and Law, and enjoying summertime with her family and neighbors on Rusk Street in small-town Marshall, Tex. When beautiful 25-year-old Lucille Harris moves into a formerly vacant house in the neighborhood, she immediately draws attention from the locals. Her husband was recently killed in a car crash, so she’s taken a job teaching piano and voice at all-black Bishop College, located nearby, and Bobbi gets to know her after she begins her own piano lessons. While it’s not the primary focus of the novel, Carlile alludes to racial tensions in Bobbi’s all-white community, while referencing pivotal events in the growing civil rights movement. A careful observer, Bobbi also notices as Lucille becomes close with Jim Tressel, a quiet 30-something neighbor with a wheelchair-bound wife. Lucille’s shocking murder and Jim Tressel’s subsequent trial force Bobbi to grow up quickly, and she learns that “some questions didn’t have easy answers.” Carlile excels at dialogue that brings Bobbi, Mama, Lucille, and the other characters to life. Despite a rather contrived resolution to Lucille’s murder, plot twists and well-integrated historical content will keep readers engaged. Ages 10–18. (BookLife)