Another BookCrossing book read and released, and another holiday book read, for yes, I have already been on my Cornwall trip but I don’t like to advertise when I’m away. I’ve also read “Street Art” and submitted my review to Shiny New Books, and Marian Keyes’ “Grown Ups”, review submitted to NetGalley and published here in January. I am really glad Cari sent me this one: I thought there would be more roadkill and shooting in it than there actually was.

Richard Grant – “Dispatches from Pluto: Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta”

(BookCrossing, from Cari, 05 July 2019)

Grant and his girlfriend Mariah, an Englishman and an Arizonan, decide to buy a big, slightly decaying plantation house in the Mississippi Delta rather than a tiny sliver in New York. They and their dog (nothing bad happens to the dog) move in and are at first dismayed by the fecund weeds and multiple snakes. They battle on through the year, adopted by a local family which helps them make their way through culture shock (buying the property from a friend’s father, they’re offered a loan direct from the bank when he accompanies them there and Mariah is suspicious of the Southern Hospitality at first). There’s also race and poverty to navigate – trying to get their black cleaner to sit at the lunch table with them is only one of their battles.

The pretext of writing this book allows Grant to access more people, for example following a white Democratic mayoral candidate’s campaign, but he also ends up frequenting a dodgy club with a black scrap-metal dealer, where he probably doesn’t mention the book.

The couple do their bit to confront stereotypes, mainly through large and expansive parties, becoming hunters themselves and helping their British and ‘Yankee’ friends to forge astonishingly close links with the locals – the Brits are surprised to find emails and social media invitations awaiting them from their new friends when they arrive home, and liberal gun-control campaigners enjoy a bit of target practice. Segregation of churches and stores and ‘shadow’ families where a white former plantation owning family is inextricably entwined with a black serving family are still there, and school segregation is rife, but as Grant says, there are many years of slavery, segregation and Jim Crow laws to recover from, and there are some positive signs.

A nuanced, absorbing and fair read.