Lay That Trumpet in Our Hands by Susan Carol McCarthy

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“Damn them…Damn those damn Klanners to hell!” exclaimed Mr. McMahon in the highly acclaimed novel “Lay That Trumpet in Our Hands”, written by Susan Carol McCarthy in her award-winning, debut novel, as one of his dear friends, Marvin Cully, is killed by members of the KKK. McCarthy depicts a white family (the McMahons) in a racially insecure Floridian community right outside Orlando, that maintains a firm belief in ending the reign of the KKK in Mayflower, Florida. The book is written through the experiences of McCarthy when she finds articles about her racial crimes within her hometown. It is well written and the author got me hooked through the action, class tension, and destruction of a society in the 1950's.

Throughout this book, the author continually shows the McMahon family as tenacious. At any given time, the McMahons could have given up on their pursuit for equality, even after their encounters with the “Klanners”, as McCarthy calls them, and the ‘explosive' events that led to the destruction of synagogues, Catholic churches, and households. The theme of tenacity is an amazing thing to think about; to go through struggles of all sorts and to experience many situations that would leave most people shell-shocked and mortified, yet still remain faithful and consistent with their belief is unprecedented. In a society such as this and the society back in the 1950's (this book's setting), tenacity is applauded and considered remarkable when one completely achieves such a feat.

McCarthy utilizes the setting of this book to portray it is a truly southern society through simple altering of words, to make it seem even more southern and older than our society. For example, instead of “I”, the author uses “Ah” to illustrate how people back in the 1950's really spoke. This definitely helped me get into the story and get used to the setting of this whole book a lot faster than most other books. She also uses words such as “Klanners” instead of calling them members of the KKK.

The main characters in the book would consist of Reesa McMahon, Mr. McMahon, the protagonist, and Emmett Casselton, the antagonist, along with his gang of KKK members. Reesa McMahon, the person through whom the story is told through, experiences the struggles of this racist society, and displays the theme of this book, tenacity, and another theme, coming of age. At the beginning of the story, Reesa is coerced into the hair of her dog, sobbing due to the death of her best friend Marvin Cully, while at the end, she deals with such hardships and events head on; for example, she assists Miss Maybelle with a snake problem in her office. Mr. McMahon, the protagonist of this story, is Reesa's father, who takes an active role in his family's desire to bring equality and peace to their community. “Daddy”, as Reesa called him, fights for his rights and does his best to assure his family's safety; for example, when his family is threatened by Klanners, he steps out of his car with his handy shotgun and deals with the situation accordingly. Emmett Casselton is the antagonist of this book due to his leadership of the KKK. He is a hazy character that we don't really get to know too well, but, none-the-less, he prevents this equality based on race due to his leadership within the Klan. He ordered the destruction of the properties of African Americans, Jews, Catholics, and those families that choose not to abide by this racial standard.

McCarthy effectively uses her description of this community, Mayflower, Florida, near Orlando, and the time placement of the book, the 1950's, by instilling the grammar and slang spoken back in the 1950's to draw the reader into the setting. She gives details such as naming the area of the town “The Orange Blossom Trail”, giving the Mayflower area a good name through the vacationers' eyes through beautiful beaches, and describing how the society is racially diverse with “liberal Northerners, Orthodox Jews and devout Catholics” and Confederate, “raging crackers”.

“Lay That Trumpet in Our Hands” is a book full of similarities to the renowned book by Harper Lee, “To Kill a Mockingbird”. Such similarities include: the setting, a racist society seeking with a white family seeking peace and justice by means of racially equality, and the death of an innocent African American. Although this book doesn't directly relate to modern day society, it does relate to the belief and idea of standing firm in what you believe it, such as religious beliefs, social/racial beliefs, etc.

Overall, “Lay That Trumpet in Our Hands” was a solid book filled with destruction, life lessons, and hardships that one in this day and age can only dream of. By giving this book a read, one can get a glimpse of what true tenacity and courage really is.





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