Monday, June 22, 2009

Richard Doster's Crossing the Lines ~ Reviewed

Crossing The Lines
By Richard Doster
Published by David C. Cook
ISBN# 978-1-437-9984-5
396 Pages

Back Cover:

Family man Jack Hall wants nothing more than to be respectable newspaper reporter see a good baseball game now and again, love his wife, and watch his son grow up in their middle-class, white community. Then he finds himself on the fault line where black meets whit in the American South of the late 1950’s.

Still reeling from an explosive confrontation that put his family in jeopardy, Jack takes a job with the Atlanta Constitution and moves his family south. He’s thrilled when he’s introduced to legendary editor Ralph McGill, an outspoken opponent of segregation who promptly sends Jack to Montgomery to investigate reports of a bus boycott.

There Jack meets another man on the fault line: Martin Luther King Jr. Profoundly moved by King’s commitment to Christian philosophy, Jack’s writing begins to reflect a need for racial equality and tolerance that isn’t always well received—even by his own wife.

Once again, historic events sweep Jack—and his idealistic son, Chris—into harms’ way. Will this be the collision that destroys his family forever?


Richard Doster pens a heartfelt, powerful, thought provoking book that gives a broad view of when things started to forever change in the South. It was as much of a surprise to Martin Luther King, Jr. as it was to the rest of the world when a group voted him to lead a fight of justice, for all! Martin Luther tells a reporter, “There comes a time when people get tired of being plunged across the abyss of humiliation.”

Martin Luther tries to explain that this movement is not about desegregation - it’s about community. “We want the same things. We might come at it from a different direction; might see things from a slightly different angel, but we both want a place were people thrive, where they’re free, where everybody loves his neighbor.” Jack Hall, reporter for the Atlanta Constitution, doesn’t see this happening in a peaceful way—he’s scared to be part any of this movement—what will his neighbors and friends think?

To Jack, Martin Luther King says, “Justice is love correcting that which revolts against love. …. True peace—the kind the Bible talks about—has got to be more than the absence of hostility. It’s got to be the presence of something good. You can’t have peace until you’ve got justice and goodwill and honest-to-goodness brotherhood,” Jack starts to think about life in a new way after hearing Martin Luther’s speeches and his pastor’s sermons. He thinks God just might want to use him to get Martin Luther’s story out to the world.

Richard Doster has a section in the back of the book called “Fact or Fiction,” In it he describes what is real in the book and what he’s changed to help the story along. I found this helpful since I haven’t done an in-depth study of Martin Luther King Jr. or that time period before. I could never understand the hatred people had back then or why everyone was so angry; even the governor was angry enough to bring out the National Guard to stop ‘Negro’ children from entering a white school after a law had been passed to make this legal. Oh, My!! All that I read was mind boggling.

In the “author notes” page of the book, Richard says, “This is a story about how a contented Southerner grows uncomfortable with his region. It is a book about how attitudes—individual and collective—were changed, not only by events, but by the flesh-and-blood humans who transformed the Old South into the new one.” I loved this story and think it’s an important read. The author doesn’t give an account of detailed history that will put you to sleep. Instead Richard centers the story around Jack Hall and his family dynamic, as well as Jack’s relationship with Martin Luther King Jr.

The author used parts of Martin Luther’s speeches and parts from a book Martin Luther King Jr. wrote called Stride Toward Freedom (published in 1958)—along with several resources he mentions in the back of the book. This is one fascinating well-rounded glimpse into how we got closer as a country- a country moving toward the brotherhood that King envisioned. We have a long way to go, but this book tells how Martin Luther King, Jr. helped us as a nation - take one huge step for man kind, in a direction to help us love our neighbor- the way the bible tells us we can.

Reviewed by: Nora St. Laurent – Book Club Servant Leader

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