Tupelo Landing, North Carolina, population about what you can fit in a dinky cafe, including one Mo LoBeau, age 11. Mo washed into town as a newborn, carried on flood debris from a hurricane. Now she lives with Miss Lana and the Colonel (he washed up in that same storm, and has no memory of what went before) in what by any standards would be a non-traditional family. But even though Mo is pretty happy with the way her summer-before-sixth-grade is shaping up, she has never stopped looking for her "Upstream Mother," the one who lost her in that flood. Then things get difficult.
Though the story is, as near as I can tell, in a contemporary setting, Tupelo Landing has the feel of a town from about 1950, possibly because it pretty much stopped changing 60 years ago. Turnage captures the slow, dusty summer feel, not to mention the feeling of everyone knowing everyone's business, beautifully. That the story ends up showing that they may not know each other as well as they thought is no coincidence, I'm sure.
A murder, an old crime, and a kidnapping, and Mo's summer isn't turning out quite the way she expected. She and her best friend Dale set out to solve it all, with maybe just a little help from Joe Starr, a detective from the big city. They need to take time, too, to help his big brother with a little financial setback. The story moves fast, in its leisurely summer way, and captures beautifully the equally pressing importance (to Mo) of things that an adult might consider to be at very different levels of significance. It all matters to eleven.
In the end, with the help of another hurricane, all the loose ends are tied up, and Mo makes some surprising discoveries about the meaning of family.
Overall, I found it a good read, fast-moving and with enough suspense to make me stay up too late finishing it. I did get a little confused at the end about how certain issues untangled themselves, but otherwise have no complaints. 4.5 stars.
I somehow got myself committed to two 3rd-Wednesday posts, and this is the first. Later today (seconds before midnight?) (okay, or maybe tomorrow. Sheesh.) I'll post the other, my contribution to the Progressive Book Club's discussion of Save the Cat, a how-to book on screenwriting, which I am reading and discussing as a writer of novels, not movies.