Racing the Storm, David J. Claassen. Middletown, DE: CreateSpace, 2021.
Summary: The tight community in a trailer park face the oncoming storm of the sale of their park with no place to move their trailers.
The close knit community of the Shady Acres Trailer Park would often gather at the Common Grounds in the greenspace around which their trailers were parked. And often, they would be chased back to their trailers by one of Florida’s storms–and they wouldn’t always make it. Then one morning, a letter brought the rumbles of another storm posing a different threat to the life of a community. Rose Crow, the resident manager of the park received legal notice from the park owner, Ed Casper, that their park would be sold in three months and that the trailer owners would need to be out, with or without their trailers.
This posed a problem for them all. The trailers were too old to be accepted by other trailer parks, leaving the residents facing the loss of their investment in the trailers, and for many of them, no place to live. As Rose delivers letters bearing this bad news, we meet the other residents:
- John, the quiet security guard who was the fix-it man for the residents.
- Granny Mae, a widowed pastor’s wife and woman of faith and prayer.
- Preacher Man, voted out of his last church when he spoke out about misuse of church funds, deeply hurt, and struggling with his own faith even as he cared for others.
- Jose Gomez, usually found underneath the 57 Chevy he was restoring.
- Billy Bailey, a special needs young adult whose parents set him up to live on his own while he worked at a sheltered workshop, where he met and fell in love with Sabrina.
- Melcomb, a reclusive man who usually spoke through his vent figure, Ricky.
- Carl and Sandi. He was a barber who hoped to make it rich when someone left an image in the dust of a little used barber chair that looked something like Jesus. The chair quickly became known as the “Jesus Chair,” earned more money than barbering and looked like the ticket to better things. Sandi was a sensible woman who worked as a physical therapist.
- Sue, an elderly woman and hoarder, whose children are trying to help her de-accumulate. She still drives, but only turns right.
- Timothy and Sara. He is a philosophy PhD student working at a convenience store while Sara works at a daycare.
The crisis brings them together, whether in futile attempts to dissuade Ed Caspar from the sale, with Billy as the most effective spokesperson, or simply as each of them struggles with what this change will mean. The diverse and somewhat eclectic mix of people, how they care for each other, and how they grow as they race the oncoming storm is what makes this “cozy fiction” story work. We see how Granny Mae’s strong faith helps Preacher Man begin to experience healing and find his calling in caring for others, notably Sue who is upset by her children’s efforts. Melcomb is drawn out of his shell, even leaving Ricky behind. We smile as we hear Billy’s guileless hopes to marry Sabrina and somehow find a way to stay, even while he delivers the daily weather update, rainfall, temperature, and humidity.
I found myself liking this group, wanting it to stay together, and wanting to see whether this group would be able to “outrun the storm” and stay together. In addition to the plotline which keeps one reading, we see a parable of the power of community unfolding–how very different people come to respect and support each other, even when it appears there is no solution. In our modern love of privacy and often self-chosen isolation, we have lost the sense of neighborhood. While neighbors can have their problems and no neighborhood is perfect, this story invites us into the work of re-neighboring, where the impersonal place of a trailer park can become a community.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.