Welcome to Bombingham

Written by Rhonda Rucker
Review by Fiona Alison

After a bomb kills his mother, teenager Earl B. is raging with pent-up anger, determined someone will pay. He comes across a misplaced list of bombing sites and investigates the addresses to see who might be next, putting himself in repeated danger with the Klansman who lost the list. His personal losses—his father, his mother and his best friend—are far more than any teenager should have to bear, but they aren’t enough to bring this story to life and it’s hard to understand why his house is bombed, since his civil rights father is already missing, courtesy of the Klan.

Investment in these characters was hard work. There is unnecessary use of Earl B.’s name where a simple “he” would suffice—sixteen times in a two-page section where he is incarcerated by himself! This disturbs the natural cadence of the prose. After almost killing a man (admittedly a Klansman) Earl B. remains detached, thinking it “isn’t anyone else’s business” and it’s “water under the bridge,” and general reactions to events seem understated and lacking emotional depth.

The subject and attendant themes are historically significant, but this novel doesn’t stir the blood as it should. Birmingham, Alabama suffered more than fifty racially motivated bombings from the aftermath of WWII until the 1960s. Rucker explores the origins of the Children’s March of May 2-5, 1963, which thankfully marked a turning point in the violence. A long-time Civil Rights activist, Rucker has also included an extended author’s note, lengthy bibliography, and personal photographs which will entice readers to research further into this world-changing period of US history.