iUniverse, Inc. (2007)
Reviewed by LuAnn Morgan for RebeccasReads (8/08)
Billy Raymond was born in the south, the second generation following the elimination of
slavery in the U.S. At the young age of four, he already recognizes the signs of
discrimination and segregation he and his family must face on a daily basis. Those
givens become clearer when he travels with his grandmother to New York when his
mother announces she is getting married.
Billy lives with his grandmother. His single mother felt unable to care for a child, so she
left him in capable hands as she traveled to make a life for herself outside of the Deep
South. Of course, now that she will no longer be a single mother, Billy’s grandmother
decides his mother should be ready to take on that responsibility. However, his new
stepfather has other ideas. He has no desire to raise his new wife’s son.
With that, Billy returns to Georgia and continues to live with his grandmother. Yet, he
never forgets the different lifestyle of those blacks up north. They have so many
advantages compared to those in the south. His goal is to someday return to New York
and be truly free.
“Motherless Child” is Billy’s story. We follow this character as he grows up and works
toward fulfilling his dreams. It’s a story that goes beyond the typical “coming of age”
novel. With an author who is familiar with life in Georgia during the mid-20th century,
we are introduced to concepts and beliefs few are privy to. The reader is taken on a
journey not to be forgotten. We learn about prejudice first-hand and develop an
understanding for the trials minorities faced on a daily basis.
Billy is not a character who is easy to like. He often comes off as brash and pompous.
Indeed, it is a piece of his personality that works as a self-defense mechanism to protect
his feelings and emotions from the “real world.” It is that world he must both escape
from and find as even his own mother turns her back on him. With that in mind, the
reader can come to appreciate Billy’s personality and the book itself. That’s what I found
as I began to read this story. It soon engrossed my time and became difficult to put down.
Cliff Chandler himself has lived in both New York and Georgia. He has an extensive
education in writing and that definitely shows as the reader experiences the vernacular of
each part of the country.
Particularly endearing is his descriptions of Billy and his grandmother on the train to and
from New York. It was a different experience in the 1930s, prior to desegregation and the
civil rights movement. Chandler has done his homework and presented the reader with a
believable novel about an unbelievable time in the history of our country.