Knot Crew, a twelve-year-old African American boy in a small South Georgia town, finds a bag of cash dropped by a bank robber in an alley. Alternating between fear and joy, Knot takes the cash home. He knows he can’t spend it; Knot is a good boy with a strong moral compass and he’s smart enough to know that if he’s caught with it, he’ll be in real trouble.
After a great deal of thought, he decides to use the money to try to help his poor neighbors and he starts anonymously mailing them hundred dollar bills. Knot is surprised and disappointed to watch as his neighbors squander the cash, and his dreams of helping them achieve a better quality of life are broken. Knot discovers that problems aren’t solved by money alone.
The Little Known by Janice Daugharty is a coming of age story from a turbulent era. Set in the 1960’s in the segregated south, and highlighting the poverty and hardships faced by many.
The author’s characterizations are strong and it’s impossible to not love the protagonist, Knot. He’s a fine boy, in spite of his upbringing, with a huge kind heart. Unfortunately, he’s surrounded by such unlikeable characters, that I just wanted him to get the heck out of there and abandon the lot of them. Knot’s mother is almost irredeemable, and it’s heartbreaking to see Knot battle so hard to help her. I think my problem with the book came from my own experiences. I lived for 30 years in an area that was relatively poor, with a population that received an influx of cash a couple of times a year from the government, along with other assistance. So I knew that money won’t solve the problems of drug abuse, alcoholism, chronic unemployment, spousal and child abuse and all the issues showcased in the novel. I found myself wanting to reach into the book and try to explain to Knot that his optimism, while lovely and kind, was seriously misplaced. It was hard to watch Knot come to the understanding that you can’t help people who don’t want to help themselves.
Would I recommend The Little Known? Ehh…I was mostly just glad when I finished it. It’s wasn’t bad, just a little depressing.
(e-galley provided by the publisher for review)