Cover image for Out of the night that covers me
Out of the night that covers me
Publication Information:
New York : Warner Books, 2001.
Physical Description:
416 p.
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An orphaned white boy and an eccentric black man forge an unlikely friendship in the segregated world of 1950s Alabama. The boy, John, whose beloved mother has died, now faces a loveless future with his alcoholic uncle on a sharecroppers farm in the Alabama Black Beltan abusive life he soon dreams of escaping. The black man, Tuway, works by day in the town bank. By night, he helps other blacks escape the poverty of the rural South to find a new life in Chicago. As he negotiates the schism between black and white cultures, Tuway is forced to include a desperate John into his double life. In a bid to change their livesand help others in needTuway and John take on the threats and challenges that foreshadow the great Civil Rights upheaval of the 1960s. My Last Days as Roy Rogers (Warner 1/99), Pat Cunningham Devotos critically acclaimed hardcover debut, won widespread praise in publications, including Booklist, Denver Post, Kirkus Reviews, and Library Journal among others.

Author Notes

Pat Cunningham Devoto has lived in Atlanta, Georgia, for the past 30 years.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

School Library Journal Review

Adult/High School-John's middle-class, college-educated mother was widowed during World War II. She sheltered her infant son and trained him in the finer points of social propriety. The novel opens when John is eight. His mother has just died, and he is forced to leave his clean, comfortable home in Bainbridge, AL, to move to Lower Peach Tree with his Aunt Nelda; her husband, Luther Spraig; and their two children. The Spraigs are a poor, white, sharecropping family. Luther is an abusive and bitter alcoholic, and John is shocked by his greatly reduced standard of living. He eventually gets some relief from the terrorism and squalor of his new home when a well-respected businessman and his wife hire him to do odd jobs. He meets black people from the community and begins to learn about their hardships and frustrations, and eventually seeks refuge with them. This novel illustrates in a very personal way the unfair socioeconomic conditions of Southern states during the 1950s that led to increased migration to Northern cities and to the Civil Rights Movement. There is a cataclysmic confrontation between the poor blacks and an oppressive white landowner's representatives. Students who have read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn will enjoy pointing out the many parallels in this novel while noticing how Devoto avoids negative or stereotypical portrayals.-Joyce Fay Fletcher, Rippon Middle School, Prince William County, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

This affecting Southern coming-of-age novel continues the story of John McMillan, the bright but overprotected eight-year-old boy introduced, in a minor role, in Devoto's debut novel (My Last Days as Roy Rogers). When his widowed mother dies in the mid-1950s, John is taken by her sister, his Aunt Nelda Spraig, from his comfortable home in northern Alabama to the small town of Lower Peach Tree in Alabama's Black Belt. There he is shocked to learn that Nelda and her family live in a dog-trot house, with no indoor plumbing or electricity. John suffers the brutality of his alcoholic Uncle Luther, who forces him to hoe cotton under a hot sun until his eyes swell shut and his skin blisters, who sells off all of the boy's family possessions and whips him with a belt. John's spirits begin to lift, however, when he is taken under the wing of kindly "Judge" Bryon Vance. The president of the local bank, the Judge makes reasonable crop loans to sharecroppers, thus incurring the enmity of the white landowners. Working as an office and yard boy for the blind Judge, John learns that "the coloreds" are slipping out of town, reportedly headed for Chicago. But how do they manage to leave, since they don't have money for train fare and don't own automobiles? The solution to the mystery seems to lie with Tuway, the Judge's awe-inspiring black right-hand man and general factotum whose life becomes interwoven with John's. Devoto's narrative voice is sometimes awkward; factual details (historical, geographic and agricultural) often feel stuffed into the story. Moreover, we seem to have met these characters before in To Kill a Mockingbird and other classics of Southern literature. Their familiar story is a haunting one, however; part of the fabric of American life, it bears frequent retelling. (Jan. 4) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Booklist Review

Devoto brings back a minor character from her first novel, My Last Days as Will Rogers (1999), as the young protagonist of her affecting, if simplistic, new novel, which also takes place in 1950s Alabama. After his widowed mother dies, eight-year-old John McMillan leaves his sheltered and ultracivilized way of life and moves in with his mother's sister, her abusive husband, and their two children on a run-down tenant farm in Alabama's Black Belt. As John tries to adjust to his new family, he is befriended by Judge Vance and his wife. Misunderstanding a conversation he overhears, and fearing that he will no longer be able to spend time with the Vances, John tries to run away to Chicago but instead ends up in The Bend. When racial violence comes to The Bend and two people he loves are killed, John is well on his way to emotional maturity. Devoto vividly brings to life the attitudes and beliefs of the Deep South and foreshadows the coming struggle for civil rights in Alabama led by both blacks and whites. --Nancy Pearl

Library Journal Review

This stunning follow-up to Devoto's My Last Days as Roy Rogers journeys further into the transformation of John McMillian, a privileged eight-year-old orphaned in the last novel and sent to Lower Peach Tree, AL, to live on the tenant farm of his aunt and uncle. In racially oppressed southern Alabama (it is the 1950s), John endures the hard life of farming while surviving an abusive, alcoholic uncle and dreaming of escape to a better life in Chicago. Devoto creates a wonderfully strong character in Tuway, a larger-than-life black man who holds together the lives of both his mother and his white employer. How John and Tuway become entangled in intrigue and escape makes this a page-turner worthy of much praise. This lyrical, moving second novel should establish Devoto as a great Southern novelist.DShannon Haddock, Bellsouth Corporate Lib. & Business Research Ctr., Birmingham, AL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.