The Last Road Home

Danny Johnson

The Last Road Home by [Johnson, Danny]Maybe it wasn’t true. “Come on, Junebug, it’s all right, don’t be afraid.” Grandma took my hand. Inside the house, a late afternoon shadow stretched like a long rectangular arm across the living room carpet. The Coke bottle Daddy used for an ashtray was stuffed with cigarette butts, and sat on the coffee table. Momma’s rocking chair waited for her; I pushed on the painted wooden arm to hear it squeak.
Two applejacks left over from Friday sat in a plate on the kitchen stove; this time of day the house should smell like fresh made sweet tea and supper cooking. I looked on the back porch, but nobody was there either. In the bathroom, I touched the last pencil line where Momma marked my height every year on my birthday. In their bedroom, I lay on the pillow to smell her. My head knew they were gone, but my eight-year-old heart didn’t yet.
Grandma sat beside me, tears rolling down her face; she’d cried a lot in the last two days. “Let’s go find what you want to carry home.”
In my room, I got the cigar box from my closet while Grandma packed clothes in paper bags. When her arms were loaded, she stood at the door. “Ready to go?”
“In a minute.” I went back to Momma and Daddy’s room, looked in her jewelry box and found the silver gum wrapper necklace I’d made for her in school. “Okay.” I stopped at the bottom of our steps and picked one of the red roses Momma had planted in the spring.

The Last Road Home Description:

From Pushcart Prize nominee Danny Johnson comes a powerful novel that explores race relations, first love, and coming-of-age in North Carolina in the 1950s and ‘60s. At eight years old, Raeford “Junebug” Hurley has known more than his share of hard lessons. After the sudden death of his parents, he goes to live with his grandparents on a farm surrounded by tobacco fields and lonesome woods. There he meets Fancy Stroud and her twin brother, Lightning, the children of black sharecroppers on a neighboring farm. As years pass, the friendship be- tween Junebug and bright, compassionate Fancy takes on a deeper intensity. Junebug, aware of all the ways in which he and Fancy are more alike than different, habitually bucks against the casual bigotry that surrounds them—dangerous in a community ruled by the Klan. On the brink of adulthood, Junebug is drawn into a moneymaking scheme that goes awry—and leaves him with a dark secret he must keep from those he loves. And as Fancy, tired of saying yes’um and living scared, tries to find her place in the world, Junebug embarks on a journey that will take him through loss and war toward a hard-won understanding. At once tender and unflinching, The Last Road Home delves deep into the gritty, violent realities of the South’s turbulent past, yet evokes the universal hunger for belonging.

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