The Summer We Got Saved

Written by Pat Cunningham Devoto
Review by Claire Morris

Set in Alabama and Tennessee in the 1960s, this novel follows events in the lives of a white family and in those of a few members of a black church. Tab is barely an adolescent the summer her aunt Eugenia arrives from Berkeley to take her and her sister to the Highlander Folk School, where they are encouraged to co-exist amicably with blacks. Tab’s father, Charles, finds himself supporting a candidate for state governor who believes in racial integration. Meanwhile, Maudie settles at the Word of Truth Missionary Baptist Church, charged with teaching its members how to register for the vote. Her “voting school” turns into so much more, inspiring its attendees to closely examine the restrictions that shape their lives.

The two threads of this story do not twine together as much as I would have liked. Maudie and Tab were friends before the novel’s timeframe, but they never reunite, and their worlds touch only briefly toward the end of the novel. I also felt that the details of the time and place were presented blatantly, rather than worked subtly into the narrative. Nevertheless, The Summer We Got Saved provides insight into the changes that took place in the lives of ordinary people during this time and place.