Feral, North Carolina, 1965

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 17 Sep 2019

Member Reviews

Willie Mae was probably very normal but also...a bit feral. Some of her experiences reminded me of my own while others had me cringing. I think my take away is that childhood is not really easy. Due to the shortness of the book and having a ten year old tell the story, it was different.  I'm not sure if I disliked or liked it.  Just different.
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I received a copy of this in exchange for my honest review.   Thank you NetGalley.


This book hooked me in immediately.    Seriously.   Amazing writing... amazing characters...  amazing storyline.
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It is not often that I will fight severe sleep deprived fatigue to just read a few more words but for this beautiful novel that was definitely the case.  Each chapter is both a short story and a little glimpse into a little girl's life in the North Carolina in 1965. Both the location and the time affect Willie but so many things still resonate today like the relationship we her brother and how girls are expected to act. Underscoring that we have her trying to understand how she feels about religion and race and not simply to follow in the footsteps of the grown-ups around her. I'm truly sad the book had to end. 

#FeralNorthCarolina1965

#NetGalley
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I was the same age in the 60s as Willie Mae so could really relate to those times and feelings. Luckily, I didn't live in Feral. This was a really good read and brought back many memories both good and bad. Another reviewer said the saying curiosity killed the cat applied to Willie Mae.  It does, but I would add Willie Mae also knew satisfaction brought him back.

I'm hoping younger people can see how it was before the computer age where knowledge wasn't at your fingertips.  

Highly recommend
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First thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the opportunity to review this book.

A nice easy read about a time that was anything but easy.  Told from a young girls perspective of the rural south in the 60s, Ten-year-old Willie Mae is a entertaining narrator on family, religion and race.  A very good book.
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Great read. The author wrote a story that was interesting and moved at a pace that kept me engaged. The characters were easy to invest in.
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Feral, North Carolina, 1965
by June Sylvester Saraceno

Short but not so sweet this story presents vignettes in each chapter that tell of the summer Willie Maeis ten living just outside Feral, North Carolina. As I read I was reminded of being in that in between age where I didn’t feel I was a child and was so eager to be grown up...or at least a teenager. I wanted to know everything and listened to adult conversation even pretending to sleep in the car when my parents were talking. I could definitely relate to Wille Mae’s summer but thankfully I was in Des Moines, Iowa and not in Feral or any other southern state...at least that was my feeling as I finished this book. 

Willie Mae was probably very normal but also...a bit feral. Some of her experiences reminded me of my own while others had me cringing. I think my take away is that childhood is not really easy. Due to the brevity of the book and it being told from the viewpoint of a ten year old it was...different. 

Anyway...not sure who the audience for this one is as it is not really suitable for ten year-olds and perhaps not exactly right for adults. I think it would provide fodder for discussion for students but am not sure what age students it would be geared toward. Some of the topics touched on: LGBTQIA, Murder, Bigotry, Integration, Religion, Early Babies, Sibling Rivalry and more...a lot packed into a bit over 100 pages.

Thank you to NetGalley and Southern Fried Karma for the ARC – This is my honest review. 

4 Stars
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I really enjoyed this quick read. Even though I’m a child of the 1980’s I could relate to 10 year old Willie. So much of this story brought back memories of my own childhood.  Being raised in a Pentecostal family, the constant awareness of biblical knowledge and worldly thoughts were pervasive in my own youth.
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'It’s a project I have, trying to get grown-ups to talk about things they won’t tell kids. You have to sneak up on it, come at it sideways- if you straight out ask, they’ll send you outside to play, or if it’s night time, tell you to say your prayers and get to bed. That’s true most of the time anyway.'

Feral, North Carolina, 1965 is a coming of age about a little girl who is all fire and spit! She isn’t a good girl, not if it means being neat and delicate. None of your beeswax doesn’t apply to Ten-year-old Willie Mae, she is nosy and incredibly perceptive. She longs to burrow beneath the surface, to seek out every family secret, but has no qualms about spying on her neighbors either. What else is there to do but hop on your back and see what sort of fun you can rustle up? She is a child with ants in her pants, far too much spirit and lord but it sometimes seems like the very devil has her ears.

In the 60’s children weren’t bombarded with knowledge with the click of a mouse. The adults didn’t barrage them with answers to every question. That naivete is long gone, children were in the dark and if they were good little darlings, they held fast that ‘mother and father know best’. If you were a feral child, you resorted to any means you could invent to uncover mysteries. Curiosity killed the cat may apply to someone like Willie Mae, but she is witty enough to realize cats have nine lives and all the fun happens in secret!

Long stretches are spent in the company of her beautiful grandmother, Birdy. Birdy who loves to talk of the past, especially about her charismatic, handsome, beloved older brother Billy until Willie comes around, as she always does, to the subject of his death. Then it’s the silence of a grave. It’s burning inside of her, to know how someone could die so young… why, why won’t Birdy tell her how he died! Sure it was a tragedy that occurred before her birth, decades  ago, in dusty olden days, but he is still family, surely she has the right to know?  Why, why won’t Willie Mae let the dead rest? Too curious for her own darn good!

Willie Mae will fight dirty when she has to, like dealing with her big brother Dare, whom everything is a competition against. She may be a girl, but she is just as strong as him, just as fast! All her mother wants is for her to act like a little lady, but that just ain’t her way! It’s all dolls and frills when she wants to be like her brother, shooting at living creatures, why do boys get to do all the fun stuff?

God fearing children do not spy on others. They sure don’t know what happens between a woman and a man. Aunt Etta wants Willie Mae and Dare to be ‘witnesses for the lord’ because it’s certainly the end of days. “Half the time I didn’t care that I was a sinner, but I kept it secret.” It’s so hard to be a perfect, good little girl when so much action calls to your soul.

Death, racism, family secrets, God, sex, and nature are just a few things that occupy Willie Mae’s thoughts. She has so many questions bubbling inside of her. Maybe Willie Mae isn’t the only free spirit ever born into her family. Maybe she isn’t the only one who had to be tolerated. This is childhood, the lull before one’s rough edges are smoothed. Ten, a time when the secrets you poke at and prod change the way you see the world, and more importantly, your family. The world spins, and it is changing too, the old folks need to get used to it!

This is a time that no longer exists, children running through the streets at play, wild little savages with scabby knees and snarls in their hair. There was an ugly side too with racial divides, children caught in the middle of the confusion. Clinging to old ways, what happens when someone is ‘different’ be it skin color or something else, something that isn’t tolerated. The bigger issues are always just above a child’s head, but they feel the wrongness of things, we see that with Willie Mae and her ever questioning mind. I enjoyed that Willie Mae sounds like a child, she can be a nasty little whip of a thing and sweet in the center, children really are neither good nor bad. Like all of us, they sway between the two.

Yes, read it.

Publication Date: September 17, 2019

SFK Press
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I loved the way the author of this novel weaved childhood stories with the darker aspects of the time period and how they affected the protagonist of this story 10 year old Willa Mae. Growing up in a fundamentalist christian house in a small toen in the 60's Willa Mae has a happy but strict childhood in which she has many adventures. Thanks to Net Galley for the ARC of this book.
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A quick read, with each chapter almost a stand-alone short story about a country child growing up in rural North Carolina.  She's a bit untamed herself, and gets herself into challenging situations, without real harm - just an increased awareness of the attitudes of the people around her.  There's a lot to relate to, if you were a child in the 60s, even if you didn't grow up in rural North Carolina.

Despite the underlying elements of racial tension, girls who get in trouble, and an uneasy relationship with church folks, this book still has elements of charm.
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Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC of this book. This was one of my favorite summer reads. Loved the characters, loved the storyline. Look forward to reading more by this author.
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I was drawn to this on so many levels, and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Great characterisation throughout.  Thanks so much for giving me the opportunity to read it!
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Like To Kill a Mockingbird, Feral, North Carolina, 1965, captures a Small Town South as a time and place with precision and a kind of brutal grace. Willie is a tomboy learning about life from eavesdropping and observation, and her outlook could be compared with Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird.  An enthralling, yet troubling book, it reads like a series of short stories--which in fact it is if one looks at how many chapters have been published as short stories. The writing is rich with language and telling details, and it's clear that the author's talents as a poet have carried over to her debut novel. 

I will post the rest of the review and the link when Southern Literary Review publishes my review. I will also post at Goodreads, Amazon, B&N, and Bookbub. A charming book that I read eagerly in one day--it's that good.
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Feral, North Carolina, 1965 by June Sylvester Saraceno was a bit of a roller coaster for me. In the beginning, I struggled to connect with Willie Mae (the main character). The storyline felt a little scattered at first but everything ended up coming together for me. By the end, I felt myself empathizing for Willie and seeing things through her eyes. I got a glimpse of life as a child trying to come in to her own in an age totally different than the one we currently live in.
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This is not the type of book which I normally read.  However, I found it quite enjoyable.  It was a quick read with each chapter almost a mini-short-story.
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Set in the rural Deep South in 1965, during a time of strict gender norms, ultraconservative religion and racial tensions, especially at the beginning of the integration, Willie Mae is just an ordinary, curious, mischievous, if not somewhat feral 10-year-old girl trying to entertain herself during a sweltering summer. She asks too many questions, is shooed away from adult business and only catches scraps of news and gossip hinting at bigger issues through open windows. Just following her through her life makes the read worthwhile, painting rich, cinematic pictures full of childhood nostalgia and adventure, similar to Stephen King's The Body and The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood, that makes readers sigh over their own memories. The writing is sublime and evocative of that old Deep South charm which is rich and deeply enjoyable as long as you remain blissfully ignorant of its underbelly. But it's this what sets the scene for what is about to develop, and the stark awakening Willie will go through that shatters the world as she knows it. A perfect read for fans of The Help, The Secret Life of Bees and To Kill a Mockingbird. 





idyllic, almost oblivious childhood trying to entertain herself
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