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Fiction Review 

Georgia Author of the Year for Fiction - 2000
Some Personal Papers
by JoAllen Bradham
Black Belt Press, 1998
ISBN:  1-881320-95-2

For six days, Eugenia Putman writes the events of her life with children who came under her special care in her role as director of Children’s Services.  “Miss Genie,” as she is known by the community, gives her love and tender attention to special needs cases whose past is filled with abuse and future is hopeless, till Miss Genie sets them free. 

Her life as a childless bureaucrat ends as she removes Herez from his mother’s apartment in public housing.  The eleven year-old with the mind of a five year-old is discovered tied in his bed without his essential survival needs being meet.  Miss Genie takes Herez to her home, planning to clean, feed and play with him enough to discover his abilities, before returning him to his prison in public housing.  As she goes through her mental checklist of his abilities and likelihood of an independent future, she realizes that Herez's future is hopeless. 

The daughter of a preacher, Miss Genie gives the words of her father’s burial service for her deformed little brother new life:  “The Lord took him.  The Lord freed him from his troubles.  Freed him; freed him from his prison.”  

That is the turning point for Eugenia Putman.  She ignores the rules of the system and helps set Herez free with loving care.  Expecting a delivery of azaleas the next day, Miss Genie digs a hole for her first boy and creates a special garden – and how does her garden grow. 

The plights of hopeless children – Guaraldi, Baltharzar, and Enamel – are told with compassionate as Miss Genie gives the boys love and joy, then sets them free.  The boys, neglected or abandoned, have a better future in Miss Genie’s care, then the future their mothers provided for them. 

The story takes a turn as Miss Genie discovers two abandoned girls.  Discovering that their mother has died, she adopts them and makes a happy home.  Unfortunately, a trip to a fast food establishment ends in the death of 4 year-old Josie as a gunman shoots eight patrons.   

Memories of Atlanta’s missing children and the Williams Trial come to mind, as JoAllen Bradham sets a parallel plot in motion with the character of Travis Mozell, the Burger Bin gunman.  As he is found connected to the deaths of three young boys, thus achieving the rank of serial killer, the mothers of Herez and the others come forward for the spotlight – surely not the love for their sons they so easily forgotten.    

Miss Genie cannot allow Travis Mozell to take the blame for the disappearances of “her boys”.  Travis becomes another ward of her love, and she must set him free.  Miss Genie turns herself into the police. 

Some Personal Papers makes a case for mercy killing as well as a case for public servants pushed to the edge of madness as they try to help the hopeless in our system, then crossing over the line.  Whether Eugenia Putman is crazy or an angel of mercy will be a topic of discussion for book clubs choosing this well-crafted argument of the heart.

 

Joyce Dixon
Southern Scribe Reviews

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