Set against the backdrop of one of America’s most beautiful and historically rich cities, The Prettiest Street in Savannah is a story of great loss and renewal, of high stakes and devastating secrets, of unrelenting values in the face of adversity. At its heart a coming-of-age tale, the novel sets its sights on an unlikely hero, Billy Ray Shuman, who works to secure a better future for himself and his brother, comes to acknowledge a number of hard truths about life, and discovers the power of true friends and family.
Bullying surfaces in many interactions between characters, a theme that does not discriminate on age, relation, or circumstance. Confrontations at school with peers occur frequently, while at home he faces all-too-common altercations instigated by his uncle. But vital moments of tender honesty between Billy Ray and his steadfast supporter Aunt Becky give depth to their family’s complex relationships. With direct prose and clear love for his characters, Cawthon blends sometimes painful realism with an abiding belief in resilience and the selflessness of the best of humanity.
Cawthon throws many obstacles at his protagonist, some devastating and violent. But through it all the theme of “how to keep faith in the face of fear” powers the story. The author’s also attentive to problems that can seem minor by comparison, such as Billy Ray’s embarrassment for being “some sort of freak” for having an old flip phone—later, it’s with the greatest elation that he receives a laptop as a Christmas gift. Such sweet moments bring solace. Readers who relish stories of good people finding their path, with prayer and lots of heart, will want to walk this street.
Takeaway: The ultimately heartening story of an impoverished Savannah coming of age.
Great for fans of: Rose Betit’s Sparrows, V. L. Brunskill’s Waving Backwards.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A-
Uplifting Story Of Triumph Over Adversity
Coming of age under difficult circumstances. Plenty of suspense, perseverance and strength drawn from faith, family and community with a nice dose of local history thrown in at no extra charge. Delightful read with no preaching, politics or social engineering. Highly recommended.