The novel Inglenook is both a memoir and a work of historical fiction. Set in a rough and tumble neighborhood of Birmingham Alabama, Inglenook follows the lives of three young brothers over the summer of 1965.
For the author and his brothers, summer begins as a series of lazy days with no responsibilities. They make the most of it by flying model rockets, parachuting cats, plane spotting, and water ballooning the city buses that pass by their house. But when their dog chases a man up a tree, things begin to change fast.
Stevie, the middle brother, befriends the man and his son. He’s a rambunctious kid who leads the charge into every adventure, and he's thrilled with his new friends. But he soon finds that there are consequences for having friends that aren't the 'right kind' of people. It doesn't take him long to realize that he can't blindly adhere to principals he doesn't believe in, especially when they threaten to come between him and his friends.
Through a series of funny, touching, and sometimes surreal events he sets about changing minds and hearts, not through any conscious act, but merely by being himself. Along the way we meet Stevie's family and friends, and a few who he just thought were his friends.
There's Big John James, the man he befriends, and his son Silas, who teach Stevie how to dance. There's his epileptic little brother Phillip, who is detached and shy. He hangs on Stevie's every word, but not when it comes to his new friends. Allen, the oldest brother, is a bit detached in his own way. He's got his own set of friends and his own ideas and just wants everyone to get along. But he finds that in a conflict, sooner or later everybody has to pick a side. Roy Cargill, Allen's friend, is the son of an abusive and alcoholic father. He seems to want everybody to experience his own misery, and he goes about sabotaging Stevie's relationship with the Jameses. Captain Robertson, the fire chief at the station across the street. Hattie, the beggar lady who rummages through their garbage can in the alley, and Patrick Hannigan, the kid who sniffs glue.
Over the summer, the brothers learn about real human suffering, their own family history, and the often irrational state of human existence. In a time and place where war, racism, and civil strife were everyday events, they learn to see beyond the labels that society places on people and judge every person by the content of their character.
A remarkably funny and heartwarming story, this book also has its share of pathos. You'll laugh out loud, and you might just cry, but you'll definitely come away inspired.
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Phillip Hawkins grew up in Birmingham, Alabama in the 1960's, later attended college, and then had a string of jobs from lab technician to electrician to chicken inspector to piano player, finally settling on software development, the very subject which he studied in college. He currently owns and runs a software consulting firm. He's been a writer and developer most of his life, something that he still loves to do. Happily married to his wife of 32 years, he resides in his home state of Alabama. He has three children and a gaggle of grandchildren. He is the author of one as yet unpublished novel, numerous love poems to his wife, reems of technical documentation and a few obnoxious blog pieces on politics and religion and other philosophical issues. He is currently working feverishly on his third novel.
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