Title: Gray Baby: A Novel
Author: Scott Loring Sanders
ISBN: 9780547076614
Pages: 321 pages
Publisher/Date: Houghton Mifflin, c2009.

The officer had looked directly at Clifton as he said those last words. Clifton shrunk back into his seat once more and tried to concentrate on the songs of the peepers through the warm night air. But they had gone completely silent. As if they were scared too. A moment later his mother, now hysterical, spun the tires in the dusty hardpack and sped off toward home. (12)

At age six, Clifton watches his father get killed by the local police force, and he and his mother have been forced to live with the racially charged cover up of the crime for ten years. Clifton sends out messages in his mother’s empty alcohol bottles in an effort to find what he’s looking for in his life, although he doesn’t even know. One of the bottles is found by the reclusive Swamper, whom Clifton befriends. A chance encounter with a kidnapped girl changes everything, and Clifton must choose whether he can trust the police to do the right thing this time around.

While the addition of the kidnapped girl accelerates an otherwise slow moving plot, it seems highly … “convenient” that Clifton is the only one what witnesses the crime. It’s also only possible in the land of fiction that this kidnapped girl ends up being the younger sister of the only classmate who treats him with respect (and whom he ends up dating by the end of the book). The only thing that saves it from a happily ever after ending is the outcome of the kidnapping. I wish we could have seen more flashbacks to when Clifton’s father was alive. Swamper is a stable and supportive character, willing to help Clifton until he feels the need to push him to make his own decisions and act on them, which is what Clifton needs in his life at that moment. Clifton’s conflicted feelings are highly justified, and it’s amazing to me that has managed to avoid confronting them for so long. It’s a nice read, but I felt… disastisfied upon completion, like there should have been something more. I’m attributing it to the tidy ending, but did anyone else whose read the book feel the same way?