Eighteen-year-old LeRoy Chambers lives with his mother in the projects on Chicago’s South Side. He works at a local cafeteria and thinks of someday becoming a restaurant chef. One night a neighbor is held up at knifepoint by members of a gang called the Wolves. LeRoy is the only witness to the crime, and the Wolves are intent on keeping him quiet, especially after the neighbor dies in the hospital, and the robbery becomes murder. Fearing for LeRoy’s life, his mother sends him south to stay with his grandfather, Aaron Chambers, a surly old widower who keeps a shrimping boat in a Mississippi fishing village just across the state line from New Orleans.
Aaron Chambers welcomes the company of his grandson. He includes him in his shrimping business and teaches LeRoy about his Cajun roots. To his own surprise, LeRoy takes to his new life, with its boating excursions out on the Gulf of Mexico and the rounds he makes of the great restaurants of New Orleans, where every chef is a friend and admirer of his grandfather’s and an eager customer for their shrimp. His life is finally making sense. But then a couple of cops arrive from Chicago to take LeRoy to testify as the material witness in the murder trial of the Wolves. If LeRoy refuses to go, he could face going to jail for obstruction of justice. But if he leaves the safety of his new home in Mississippi, he’s putting his life in danger.
A YASD Best Book for Young Adults, this riveting novel by W.E. Butterworth captures the tension of LeRoy’s predicament in Chicago and the tenderness that blossoms between him and the grandfather he hardly knows. The book presents a vivid portrait of the life of a Gulf fisherman and the restaurant world of New Orleans. The differences between LeRoy and his grandfather are the differences between blacks of the North and those of the South, and show just how varied the lives of African Americans truly are.