The little boy, nothing but skin and bones with scorched hair and tattered clothes, was discovered by the American soldiers in 1944. He didn’t know much English, but could say Joe (as in G.I. Joe) so that is what he called himself. The when pressed for his last name, he looked around the mess hall and saw his favorite food – black-eyed peas and responded “Peas”. As a child, he lived through war and re-invented himself.
Fast forward many years. Joe Peas finds himself in a small American town extolling the pleasure of correctly painting houses. He schools the patrons of a local diner with his method of treating a house right to bring it back to a thing of beauty.
That morning, one of the locals enjoying Joe’s antics was Dr. James King. He is a doctor in this small town of King’s Mill. He is as dedicated to healing and helping his town as Joe is dedicated to beautifying it one house at a time.
Both men go on with their lives, Joe painting houses, Dr. King taking care of his family, the staff at his clinic and his patients. He runs a rehabilitation clinic that is barely making ends meet, but he loves what he is doing even though he is living life on the edge financially. Then there is the HOA in the community he lives in. The tyrant that heads the association delights in making sure the grass isn’t too long, the shutters are all painted the same color and the kids in the neighborhood don’t leave anything that resembles a toy within his sight. He “enforces” the rules by levying fines on the residents that have the audacity to not toe the line. His main focus seems to be on Dr. King – whom he assumes has deep pockets.
Fate steps in to push Joe and the doctor together again. Joe lands in the rehab center just when Dr. King is about at his lowest point with both personal and professional difficulties. The man that grew from that tiny ragged child had seen and done many things in his life, and was determined to help his new friend and doctor. The problem is, Joe has secrets that he wants to keep and helping may expose things in his life he wants to keep hidden secret.
Sam Newsome’s second novel, Joe Peas is a delightful tale of friendship, determination and the celebration of individuality. It was a light and quick book to read, but the characters had depth and emotions that pulled me in and kept me turning the pages. The bit of mystery surrounding the years between Joe’s childhood and when he showed up in the second chapter as a man of “advanced age” with “animated speech and gestures suggested he was very active” kept me guessing. The end was exceedingly satisfying.
Joe Peas is the first book I’ve read by this award winning author. Newsome’s first book, Jackie won the Garcia Memorial Book Award in 2015. I expect many more awards and hope for many more books by this talented new voice.