Pokeweed: An Illustrated Novella
Once Z commits his first act of vengeance he becomes embroiled in the larger family feud that paralyzes the appropriately named town of Hazard. As Z’s old teacher Ms. Layton tells him, “There’s a rule, Z with outlaws, I mean. You never get finished. There will be more men.” And yet, many members of Hazard don’t treat Z like an outlaw, just a boy (he’s only 13 for much of the novel) who is trying to set an impossible situation right. Tucker has a knack for fleshing his fine story out with strong supporting characters, like the weary Doc Branson, the bright-eyed and lovely Maggie, the vigilant Preacher Roger, and Z’s sharp little brother Mose, who gives the novel a moral ballast.
The novel works on many levels, not the least of which are ones of economic and social concern. The plight of the poor sharecropper Snopes family – a plight and a family from which Z must break free – speaks for voiceless victims of not only the blood feud, but the ruthless land grabs of B. Fulton French. Tucker has steeped this rich, wonderful novel in history. He has depicted those troubled times in a way that makes us reconsider our own often more petty quarrels in dealing with insult and loss and give us hope that, like Z, we may find a way forward.