There are a lot of things I like about Anna Jean Mayhew's novel, The Dry Grass of August. First of all, I am overjoyed that Mayhew is a first-time novelist later in life - giving me some hope that maybe someday I, too, could write something. Mayhew answers questions about her writing process at book's end, and admits that this book took her decades to write. The Dry Grass of August is a book I have heard described as similar to The Help by Kathryn Stockett. That is a high bar to live up to since The Help is one of my all-time favorite books. There are some very interesting similarities to The Help in Mayhew's book. However, The Dry Grass of August is more of a coming of age novel than The Help, but there is a focus on the relationship between Mary, their hired girl and Jubie.
Set in the South in th 1950s, Jubie is fast realizing how different her world is from Mary's. As Jubie begins a trip to Florida with her mother and siblings she sees how differently Mary is treated - having to use the outhouse, not being allowed to stay in many of the hotels or eat with them in restaurants, when Mary is taken by some white men, Jubie truly learns what it means to be black in the South. Jubie's own home life is not so happy, either. Her parents relationship seems to have soured, and her father is prone to using physical violence against Jubie when he sees fit.
The Dry Grass of August should have crossover appeal - a book for both adults and teen readers. While the comparison to The Help is what first piqued my interest, Mayhew's novel deserves the positive reviews it has received.