A prize-winning journalist and author returns to his childhood in this fictional account of the tumultuous 1960s Civil Rights era, a gripping thriller that takes us into the heart of an Alabama town held captive by the blind hatred of the KKK. "A profound and heartbreakingly real" [Kirkus] novel. The teenage narrator breathes life into that violent setting and pays homage to the tragedies and hardships of both black and white Southerners trying to thrive in a wicked, segregationist town.
Young Sonny Poe is trapped in a dead-end life of poverty and prejudice. Horrified after witnessing a lynching in the midnight woods, Sonny turns shy of anyone he suspects is a Klansman; soon he meets and befriends a progressive doctor with a troubled past and a crusading spirit who's trying to help end abuse against the local community of Negroes.
The headstrong teenager commits himself to "Doctor Joe" and his cause even as both suffer betrayals, beatings, arrest and finally exile in a story that can only end in tragedy--and hope.
This is a story of immense tension that pulsates with violence, love, betrayal and humor as it rushes through the forebodingness of one of America's most pressing historical moments toward a shocking climax.
The Civil Rights Movement forms the backbone of The Sum of His Worth, but its strength comes from the voice of its young narrator and its strongest theme lies in the caveats of moral reckoning in a "free" society.
"Jim Crow was interwoven with growing up in small-town Southern life. Argo has captured this nuance ... Here, courage is not a single act, but an ongoing commitment that can separate one from everything that is deeply loved."
"Argo successfully creates a profound, multilayered tapestry that's full of nuance. [His] first-person perspective creates a fragile aura around the unfolding events, and makes them wholly unpredictable ... The authentic dialogue is especially effective; each restrained syllable conveys as much as a five-page soliloquy ... In a style that's evocative of S.E. Hinton's classic works, with a dash of Daniel Woodrell's Southern grit, [Argo's] novel is an engrossing, heartbreakingly real novel of the South"
"The Sum of His Worth is a work of serious literary fiction, a coming-of-age story set in a time of national upheaval ... rich in ambiance, descriptive detail, and incident ... My interest never flagged in this convincing, meaningful, and deeply immersive tale."
"Ron Argo's depiction of Alabama in the late 50s and early 60s is as unrelenting as a shutter click, the image clear and unforgiving. From grits and okra to the horror show of white robes and burning crosses, the images are spot on perfect. So are the characters ... No reader will fail to come out of it unchanged."
"Argo's fiction rings chillingly true."