Madewell Brown

Written by Rick Collignon
Review by Nan Curnutt

When Obie Poole, a retired Negro League baseball player from the ’20s, met Rachael Poole, he knew this orphan girl had to be the granddaughter of his old friend and baseball teammate, Madewell Brown. Rachael enjoyed the stories the old man told her of her supposed grandfather and his team, but she didn’t really believe them. The stories kept changing. Nevertheless, she was drawn to this old man and his tales of past glory days.

Ruffino Trujillo called his estranged son, Cipriano, to his deathbed to tell him the story of a black man, Madewell Brown, who visited their small town when Ruffino was a boy. After Ruffino died, Cipriano found an unmailed letter in his belongings. He decided to mail it unopened. The recollections of these two men would change the lives of those they loved.

Set in the 1990s, this is the fourth novel in Collignon’s Guadalupe series. His descriptive, clear prose propels the reader into the midst of each setting. For example, he describes how the splatter of chicken grease jumps from a boiling pot to burn a hand, or how a soft breeze, like a breath, moves across sage. Collignon places his audience in the minds of many of the story’s characters, allowing them to see the complexity within. Each character is human and imperfect, but even the worst are compelling in their own way. This story of love and redemption shows how the smallest acts can alter many lives. Highly recommended.