Novels by Phil Whitley

Stories of survival and adventure

Andy Lloyd's Review of Granny Boo


'Granny Boo'

By Phil Whitley


R. J. Buckley Publishing, 2010


Author Phil Whitley with Andy's original paintingGranny Boo is the long-awaited sequel to Phil Whitley's first novel, 'Keechie'.  I've been involved in this project personally - Phil asked me to create a painting for the book cover - and I was delighted when he, and his publisher, accepted the artwork that resulted  (this photo shows Phil with the original painting).  I really enjoyed his first novel, and have been looking forward to this second instalment for years. 

I'm very pleased to report that 'Granny Boo' is as good as 'Keechie'.  Whitley combines a very realistic, and often tragic history of Native American Indians in 19th Century Georgia, with a touching and poignant tale of survival in a post-apocalyptic U.S.

The country has succumbed to various terrorist atrocities that have destroyed the infrastructure holding civilisation together.  In the resulting power vacuum, the West has once again become Wild.  Brian and his family seek refuge in a secretly located cave, once inhabited by a Native American Indian woman decades before whom Brian had got to know very well in his youth, (the story related in 'Keechie').  The family must rely upon the survival skills he has acquired and remain hidden until the troubles die down. They become extremely wary of strangers, and with good reason. 

The cities, in the surrounding State, descend into chaos, and the countryside becomes the hunting ground for malicious criminals.  It is hard for anyone to know who to trust anymore, as resources become increasingly scarce, and law enforcement disappears.

To Brian's delight, his wife and daughter embrace the old Indian ways.  As an insular unit they thrive through adversity - in stark contrast to the collapsing civilised world around them.  They are soon joined by an old friend of Brian's - a black man equally comfortable with leaving his old life behind.  Their adjustment to a more rugged, hunter/gatherer existence is supported, and given more relevance, by the stories of Keechie, and her ancestors before her.  In particular, the family discover enchanting stories about Granny Boo, Keechie's maternal grandmother.  Both were Spirit Singers who maintained a old ways through times of increasing difficulty. 

In the 19th century, Granny Boo's tribe faced extermination by the white settlers, and spent their lives in seclusion in the creek valley now inhabited by Brian and his family.  In turn, his present day family take inspiration from the stories in Keechie's journals, and learn how to use the old ways to ensure their own survival.  Their journey takes on an increasingly spiritual element as the ancestor spirits, and the powerful, protective Puma Man spirit, make their presence felt.

This book details the heart-warming story of life in the secluded valley, and the many resources Brian, Mary, Alex and Maurice call upon from ancient lore.  The narrative is punctuated by a series of short stories relating to times gone by.  Many of these charter the life of Granny Boo as a young woman as she finds love, and perseveres through tragedy.  Other stories are myths from the indigenous peoples of the area which have survived to the present day.  All are fascinating, and successfully transport the reader to a different time and culture. 

There is a running theme of empathy with the indigenous peoples of Georgia throughout.  In a way, this reflects other work emerging from America at the moment, like Avatar.  The genocide of the Indians seems to rest heavily upon the American psyche at the present time.  There is also a palpable feeling of the need to re-engage with nature.

Finally, I was struck with how the book essentially honours the preceding generations of Indians who lived in the area.  This reflects the practices of the Indians themselves, and seems rather apt.  The book honours the memories of fictional characters whose lives seem very real.  It crescendos on a spiritual level as Brian's family discover that their connection with history runs deeper than they could possibly have imagined.

'Granny Boo' is an inspiring novel.  It will appeal to anyone interested in the cultures of Native American indians, and to anyone who loves listening to a good story around a campfire.

View online at Andy Lloyd's Dark Star website

Book review by Andy Lloyd, 14th April 2010

Books for review can be sent to Andy Lloyd at the author/publisher's own risk. (I reserve the right to fail to produce a review if a submitted book turns out to be complete pants). Please contact me by e-mail for a postal address.



A Review of
Phil Whitley Granny Boo -- Legacy of the Puma Man, Vol. I (R.J. Buckley Pub., 2009)
                   244 pp  $19.00  ISBN-10: 0981965415 ISBN-13: 978-0981965413
Reviewer:  Forrest W. Schultz, Editor, Southside Arts Agenda Newslatter
      Phil Whitley's latest Indian story is set in the near future in an America which has collapsed from intensive terrorist attacks.  Its focus is upon a survivalist who moves his family into the "spirit cave" of his Indian ancestors.   The adventures which his family has there are interspersed with flashbacks of accounts of these ancestors, especially of the famed Spirit Singer Pu-Can, whom they have nicknamed "Granny Boo".  These episodes from the past are both interesting in their own right and are relevant for the crises which the family is facing now.  Pu-Can and other Indian leaders from the past who were her colleagues serve them as role models, and the wicked Alabama Indian Chief Big Stone shows what they need to avoid.
     With respect to the present, Granny Boo is a sequel to Whitley's award-winning 2005 story Keechie; with respect to the stories concerning Pu-Can, it is a prequel to Keechie
     In the Acknowledgments page Whitley expresses his intent of honoring the "wonderful cultural heritages and traditions" of the American Indians, but he recognizes that he is doing so as an outsider, a "paleface", who has gained his knowledge from research, not by the experience of living as an Indian.  Whitley has been spending most of his retirement years in this research, which focuses upon the tribes which lived in the southeastern US.  He grew up in Pine Mountain Valley, GA and is now residing in Riverdale, GA, where he is a part of the burgeoning literary arts scene in the Southside of Atlanta.   
     Granny Boo is well written -- so, if you like Indian stories you will like this one.  The Indian lore and history in the story also have educational value and may stimulate some readers to do some of their own research.  For instance, the story is bound to raise the question as to the exact definition of a "Spirit Singer", of the "Puma Man", etc.  There are also facets in Indian lore which may be analogous to certain features in American culture.  For instance, the question in Granny Boo "Can you still hear the drums?" made me think of the question in the Christmas story Polar Express '"Can you still hear the bell?".