Turner Buckminster III is so unhappy with his family’s move from Boston to the small town of Phippsburg, Maine, that he wishes he could just “light out for the Territories” like Huckleberry Finn. Turner’s father, the Reverend Turner Buckminster II, has been called to minister at Phippsburg’s First Congregational Church, but young Turner finds the town quite inhospitable.
Willis Hurd, son of the head deacon, invites Turner to play softball. In Phippsburg, the ball is pitched in a ridiculously high, slow arc, whereas in Boston it is thrown straight and true. When Turner flails at Willis’s unorthodox offerings, he becomes the laughingstock of the town. Later the boys invite Turner to go swimming, but in Phippsburg this involves leaping off the granite cliffs lining the shore into the roiling sea forty feet below. When Turner balks, his humiliation is complete. Disconsolately skipping stones on the way home, Turner hits the picket fence of the formidable Mrs. Cobb, who complains to the Reverend. As a punishment, Turner is sentenced to go to the disagreeable woman’s house every day to read to her.
Lizzie Bright Griffin lives on the tiny island of Malaga, just off the coast of Phippsburg. The granddaughter of a preacher, Lizzie is joyful and at one with the natural world. All of the residents of Malaga are Negroes who rely on the sea for their sustenance. The distinguished gentlemen of Phippsburg, led by the dour Mr. Stonecrop, consider the island and its poor inhabitants to be a blight; they want to be rid of them to promote tourism in the area. The islanders have been notified that they must leave regardless of whether they have a place to go.
Turner first meets Lizzie Bright on the shore when he is trying to hit rocks with a piece of driftwood so he will be able to handle Willis’s pitches, should he ever play ball with him again. Although he has never met a Negro before, he takes to Lizzie immediately because she evinces the freedom of spirit he longs for but finds so elusive. Lizzie teaches Turner to hit the arching pitches thrown in Phippsburg. Later, she takes him to Malaga, where he meets her grandfather, Preacher Griffin. Turner feels at home in the “cold wildness” of the island. He meets the Griffins’ neighbors, the Tripp family, and spends a “glorious day” playing with all the little Tripp children.
When Turner returns home, the city leaders are at his house, conferring...
(The entire section is 1651 words.)
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