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Fiction Review    

B-Four
By Sam Hodges
University of Alabama Press, Deep South series, 2000
ISBN: 0-8173-1049-5

 

 

I’ve been to Birmingham, Alabama just once in my life.  That is to say, I’ve been through Birmingham just once in my life.  That seems to be the lot in life of this southern city.  Most people think of as just a way station to other major cities such as Atlanta, Chattanooga, and Nashville among others. 

It is how young Beauregard Forrest, the young man who is the main character in B-Four thinks of Birmingham also.  He even used the phrase, “being in Birmingham” as synonymous with being a loser.  He wants desperately to go places, to be someone. But all he does is go to Civil War reenactments with his wealthy banker father, and work in a job temporarily at the local newspaper, writing the “Pet of the Week” and Obits entries.  His stories don’t get any further forward in the newspaper than page B-Four; hence the title of this book. 

His father and brother are both successful men, but he struggles with his plans for the future.  Daddy has said he will go to Washington and Lee University, and Beauregard reads dictionaries to improve his vocabulary and works at the newspaper to improve his mind.  But he is bored with it all.   

Then, he gets a chance to do a big story.  He gets it, then is torpedoed by another reporter who steals it and “scoops” him.  A second story appears on the horizon, and with his new girlfriend’s help he investigates it.  That is, till his girl dumps him.  Now, both the story and the girl are out of reach.  Resigned to take the SAT test for entrance to Washington and Lee as his father wants, he goes to the test site.

Will he pass or fail?  Does he care enough to even take it anymore?

What will become of poor Beauregard? 

This is really the attraction of the story for me.  It represents the yearning of a young man to struggle and achieve, and to find a niche for himself in life.  The very silliness of some of the situations the author-Hodges puts Beauregard in, tells of the meaninglessness of so much of life.  It is in the struggle, or journey that we find what he is made of.  So much of what happened to the young man reminded me of myself when I was his age.  It is this familiarity that gives the book its charm.

 

Robert L. Hall
Southern Scribe Reviews 

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