[Carry Me Home artwork]

In a small southern town during the Great Depression, young Leroy Evans is going through the toughest of his growing up years. His father is an intractable alcoholic who leaves home following one of his all-too-common tantrums. By default, Leroy accepts the role of man of the house.

To Leroy's surprise, Alane Sharpe, the only daughter of a prominent judge in the community, expresses interest in him. As Leroy vies for her devotion, he becomes painfully aware of the familial differences between himself and those like Alane who are well-bred. He awkwardly and sometimes humorously attempts to prove to himself that he is capable of relating to her cultured society.

Woody Woodrow, an elderly black man from the other side of the river who has known Leroy since before he even knew himself, proves to be a wise, if unlikely, friend and mentor as Leroy comes to terms with his turbulent life. Chats outside the barber shop where Woody works, along the river bank, and even in Woody's home touch on the intricacies and perplexity of life. Their encounters teach Leroy how to chew tobacco properly, how to soothe heartache, and how to philosophize about life itself.

When Leroy's daddy returns from his self-imposed exile, the teenager determines to take family life into his own hands. He painfully learns that he cannot force his will on anyone, especially his recalcitrant father. Hoping that the opportunities of the Christmas season will convince his father to mend his ways, Leroy is deeply hurt when his initial optimism on Christmas morning dissolves into bitter disappointment.

Leroy's relationship with his father, mother, younger sister Cody Sue, best friend Sav, school bully Bruno, and especially Alane Sharpe give him plenty of opportunities to test the lessons he learns from Woody. We watch with alternating mirth, mourning, laughter, pride, and anguish as he wends his way through the maze of life.

In an emotional turn of events, we learn that Woody lost a young son many years before. Leroy discovers that he now is the old man's surrogate son. This heart-warming discovery occurs just before Woody is the victim of a heart attack suffered in the midst of a tornado. Woody spends his last moments of life thanking Leroy for giving him a joy he once thought was lost forever. Only after Woody's death does Leroy realize the meaning of his final conversation with his old friend. Our story leaves Leroy with the wisdom of Woody in his head and the affection of Alane in his heart.

(CARRY ME HOME is published by Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee.)

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