Bette Stevens’s “Pure Trash” is a quick and delightful read. It’s the story of a nine-year-old boy named Shawn, whose family is poor, and whose father is an alcoholic. On account of this unfortunate combination, he and his younger brother Willie are scorned throughout the community.
This little story employs excellent mid-twentieth century dialogue, making you feel like you’re a part of the sleepy little town the author has invited you to. It begins with a lighthearted feeling: two young boys off to enjoy a carefree Saturday. But, as the story progresses, we’re faced the harsher realities of the world: cruelty and judgment, and unfairness on account of things that people can’t even control.
Take the character of Mrs. Pendergast, for instance. She’s a perfect example of the difference between “how the world sees people” – and “who they really ARE.” Mrs. Pendergast isn’t the kind, Jesus-loving woman she appears to be. She’s a judgmental bigot, and lacks so much as a compassionate pinky finger.
Despite the dark undertones of the story, though – we’re left with the feeling of Shawn and Willie riding free down Andover Hill. In Shawn’s own words: “I guess that’s how that old chicken hawk feels when he soars above the pines at the edge of the field out back of the house.”
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