Out of the Night That Covers Me has a likely future of being considered a classic in the tradition of To Kill a Mockingbird. It is the story of the black experience in the rural South in the 1950s, told with a voice that is at once both subtle in its nuance that begs understanding and deafening in its clarion call to action. As with To Kill a Mockingbird, you cannot read it and remain unchanged.
At the tender age of eight, when most little boys are only worrying about doing their homework after school, John McMillan’s world is shattered. His mother dies, and he dragged from the only home he has ever known, a home that included his great love: reading. He is shipped off to Alabama, which might as well be Mars for how different it is from where he was raised. His aunt is not too bad, but his uncle is a drunk and abuses him. All John can do is pray for a way to escape. Suddenly that way appears.
John finds himself in the Bend, where black outcasts go, and he makes friends with Tuway, who helps people leave the South to go to Chicago. Then they find themselves caught up in the swirl of the confrontation that, although it has been building for years, still catches people by surprise. This confrontation will alter lives, opinions and history.
Devoto obviously did a lot of research for this book, because it is rife with authentic details that make it all the more compelling. She does a masterful job utilizing dialogue to advance the storyline, explain characters' emotions and set scenes. The plot is woven tightly and never strays from its point. It is particularly gratifying to see the strength of Tuway’s character favorably representing black men. Also admirable is the way that Devoto shows the metamorphosis of John from immaturity to wisdom, restoring faith in the way that humanity can overcome the worst of beginnings as long they do not give up.
Out of the Night That Covers Me is an excellent book that everyone should read for both its educational and enjoyable aspects. Well done, Ms. Devoto.