Waiting for Augusta by Jessica Lawson
Format: eBook, 336 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Date Published: May 10th 2016
Genre: Middle Grade
Ben Putter has been helping his mother run their home BBQ business ever since his father passed away from lung cancer. That's also about the same time that Ben noticed this "golf ball" sized lump in his throat, and he also started to feel like his hometown of Hilltop, Alabama was getting a bit smaller. Ben's solution is to run away, but where to he isn't certain yet. It's on this very day that Ben begins to hear a mysterious voice talking to him, which for the Putter men isn't really that unusual. Everything from the clock to the wind "speaks" to Ben, yet this time, Ben recognizes the voice as his father's and it is speaking to him from his dad's urn. Ben's father tells him that he wants his ashes to be spread across the 18th hole at Augusta National Golf Club. Wanting to honor his dad's wishes, Ben makes plans for the 400-mile trip, but unbeknownst to Ben someone has been listening, and she plans to come along. Noni will provide the strength and brains, while Ben will bring the provisions and money to get them there, and no one can say no to Noni.
Waiting for Augusta is the third book by Jessica Lawson that I've read and enjoyed, the others being Nooks and Crannies and The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher. Waiting for Augusta takes place in rural Alabama during 1972 and touches on the topics of racism, integration of schools and the grief of coming to terms with the death of a parent. It's part adventure story, but also an interesting examination of Ben and his father's relationship through their many conversations they have along the way to Augusta. There is magic to the story, in that Ben's speaking to his father, who has passed away and who's ashes are being kept in an urn. Lots of things "speak" to Ben during the story, some quite entertaining too. The magic seems to make it easier to approach the topic of a parents death. I really got caught up in Ben and his dad's story, with how Ben had always felt like he wasn't living up to his dad's expectations for him. How Ben felt like his dad loved golf more than him. I really felt for Ben and his unresolved feelings, for all the things that he had wanted to say to his father before he died. They have some very touching moments where they get to have the conversations they both need to hear. I'm not ashamed to say a few tears were cried. One of my favorite quotes is when Ben says, "If only I could find a way to let the dark, heavy memories go. Watch them drift away like colored balloons that would fade and disappear into the midnight sky." I'm a firm believer in the importance of not assuming that people know how you feel, and always telling the people who are important to you just how important they are. Ben also struggled with feeling like he had let his friend May down when she was being bullied at school. Yet, witnessing a protest of students being bused into a school in Georgia, Ben's eyes open to how May must have felt and he also realizes that he should have stood up for May. I was really happy with the way that he made amends to May. Another aspect that I really liked was the balance between the characters of Noni and Ben. His quiet to her fearlessness and how by the end, she was able to open up to Ben about her reasons for needing to come with him. Noni was by far my favorite character and I love how Ben describes her, "she was like a tricky springtime: nice and bright and calm one minute, smacking you with rain the next." It just seems to fit her. Plus Noni has these wonderful rules for wandering which she learned from her dad. Another huge aspect of the story centers around golf, which truly I know very little about. I've played on an actual golf course once and seen a few rounds of the Masters on T.V., but you can just tell that golf is as important to Lawson as it was to Ben's dad. It just seems right that the book is broken down into rounds of golf and that each chapter begins with a "hole" being played. A wonderful adventure story with magic, humor and many heartfelt moments.
"...you know this is impossible, right? Lots of things are, right up until they're not."