In 1972 on a hot, late spring day in Georgia, five-year-old Noble Thorvald plays contentedly, alone in her suburban backyard. Her only companions…an imaginary professional football team. As she plays in her world of wonder and adventure, Noble is unaware of the challenges life will hurl in her direction-challenges that will redefine her more than once. Fighting Kudzu is the lyrical saga that traces Noble’s life as she emerges into adulthood and discovers herself.
The plot synopsis given on the back cover, and given above, of Fighting Kudzu by Mystic Thompson comes nowhere near the actual depth and complexity of the story of Noble Thorvold. As it mentions, it does start out when Noble is five years old and continues through many years of her life. And once you get past the imaginary football team that she plays with everyday, you quickly discover that this story is not for the faint of heart.
The book opens with Noble in the middle of a game with her favorite Miami Dolphins, complete with Larry Csonka, full back and the shining star of the entire NFL, according to Noble. And it is not just any game, she is the first professional female football player and she has had a key role in the Dolphins getting to the Super Bowl and they are playing the Minnesota Vikings during the summer of 1973. Or, at least, she is until her mother calls her for something. But life is good. She is going to start school the next fall. She has an older brother and an older sister. The three siblings don’t always get along but they care about each other. Noble and her brother and sister also have two parents that adore them and each other.
However, life starts taking some very unexpected twists and turns for the three siblings. Not long after Noble starts school, confusion and pain begin to become more commonplace in their home than not. And as the timeline progresses, each of the siblings must find their own way to cope with the tragedies that continue to occur. And every time something happens, the pain and confusion get worse and the reader feels it right along with Noble. There was more than one instance that tears came to my eyes because the writer was able to accurately convey Noble’s thoughts and feelings so well that my heart broke for her.
Noble is five when the story begins, so the subject of Noble’s sexuality doesn’t come in until later in the book. The subject presents very naturally and believably when it arrives. Ideas of romance and sex become part of Noble’s life after her discovery of her homosexuality but the book doesn’t turn around and only focus on this one aspect. What stands out, at this point in the story, is that being a lesbian doesn’t then dominate everything that happens for the rest of the book. Yes, it affects her life in many different ways, but the difficult issues that continue to arise don’t stop just because she discovered this aspect of herself, unfortunately for Noble.
It is very easy to sympathize with Noble from the beginning. Her thoughts and actions are age-appropriate and easy to understand from the first page. As she gets older, the feelings, thoughts, and actions quickly become more complex due to some very difficult situations but the reader will not be lost; the time transitions and structure make the book’s flow of time easy to follow so that there is no confusion and the reader can simply continue to be immersed in the story.
This book is extremely well written. It keeps the reader on the edge of their seat and draws them into the story, into Noble’s world, and maintains that hold throughout the book. The characters have depth and their actions have clear motivations behind them. Noble’s feelings and thoughts are clearly conveyed so well that it the readers will often find themselves smiling or crying along with the characters. There are many heart-wrenching scenes that will make tears come to many readers’ eyes.
I very highly recommend this book, especially for those people who enjoy a good ‘tear-jerker’, and even a lot of people that don’t. This book is so well written that time escapes the reader and one is eager to know what comes next-even when it might not be pretty. The only people that I would not refer this book to, is persons who have a trigger about persons or characters with alcoholism, especially if it involves a parent. I look forward to reading the sequel, as I am eager to find out what happens next in Noble’s life.
Rae Glenn loves reading so much that it has become a physical need. Supporting the LGBT youth has become as important to her as breathing. It is only natural for these to come together. You can find her @LovelyRedMuffin.