Word Patriots – Joanna Scott’s “Follow Me”
Since the publication of “Huckleberry Finn” in 1885, countless readers, all small-town boys-at-heart, who envied and wanted to trade places with the free-as-a-bird Huck, have drifted down the Mississippi with him and his easy to fool, credulous yet capable and levelheaded companion Jim, whose thoughts constantly turn to his family still in servitude, following them as, fast on their toes, they survive by their flexible wits, pilfering and fibbing to get by, and encountering a panoply of colorful characters as they head southward, deeper and deeper into slave territory . Sixteen -year-old Sally Werner, the heroine of this week’s guest Joanna Scott’s lyrical 2009 novel and future American classic “Follow Me”—a New York Times Notable Book of the year—also flees home, and, from her religious German immigrant parents’ farm in Pennsylvania, follows another river, the fictional Tuskee, northward. I predict that if the human race is blessed to survive so long, generations of readers will keep coming back to this book, that it will prove a sister to “Huckleberry Finn,” every bit as enduring and perennial, and that a century from now it will be fettering and entrancing readers who will continue to follow Sally as she bursts her bonds, lives by her wits, and for six decades recreates, re-conceives and re-christens herself as again and again happenstance propels Sally to run away from town after town, proceeding forever northward, keeping the first name Sally but assuming a string of new surnames: aka Sally Angel aka Sally Mole aka Sally Bliss, all the time haunted by the fact that at the start and inception of her odyssey she abandoned her infant son on her parents’ kitchen table. Her tale begins as a lark. In 1946 Sally Werner allows her cousin Daniel Werner to take her for a ride on his motorcycle and in the ride’s aftermath conceives his baby. Her fundamentalist German parents naturally blame her for the sinful act, and she, too, is full of self-incrimination. As trapped as Huck or Jim, after her boy’s birth, she impulsively makes the decision to run away, a choice which will haunt her for the remainder of her life and which will have future, gut-wrenching, consequences for those she loves. If you would like to know more about my books, please visit my website: www.markseinfelt.com. See also the Amazon page for “Follow Me”: http://www.amazon.com/Follow-Me-Novel-Joanna-Scott/dp/B005Q697GQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1331074391&sr=1-1 .