Nov 21, 2013

Last Night

Ever have one of those moments or experiences that you never thought would ever happen, but when they do you're left with this almost euphoric feeling? Well, that's kind of how last night was for me (I'll get to this in a moment). Aside from four years in college, I've lived in the same small town my whole life. I've seen it grow from nothing more than a Publix surrounded by orange groves (we didn't get a Target until I was well into college) to having a six lane highway and a Starbucks drive-thru with a Chipotle right next to it (this happened about a month ago).

It's always been a small, sleepy little town where everyone knows pretty much everyone and you better look decent if you're making a grocery run on a Sunday afternoon 'cause you're bound to run into at least one person you know. It's charming and quaint; I tend to call it our own little Stars Hollow (Gilmore Girls anyone) because a lot of the time, that's exactly how it feels. We have festivals and events sprinkled throughout the entire year and it's just a fun place to live.

I say all that to set the scene for what's coming next...

Over the summer, I caught wind of a book titled, Devil in the Grove, it's a true, historical account of the Groveland boys who were falsely accused of raping Norma Padgett in 1948, the trial that followed and a lot of coverups that took place on all levels of the government. Gilbert King, the author, won the Pulitzer Prize for the book and having it be a local story, I knew I needed to get my hands on and read it.

I'll admit, I tend to shy away from historical non-fiction because they can be very dry and dull, but King's ability to write this story as if it were a fiction novel is truly remarkable. He mentioned last night that he wanted to make sure his writing style was enough to make this book a page turner. He did just that. I couldn't put the book down and at some points I found myself thinking, no one could make this story up even if they tried.

Never, in my entire life; past present or future, would I have ever thought we'd have a Pulitzer Prize winning author in our small town, let alone speak to an entire auditorium full of people at a free event. It was never something I would've added to my bucket list because I didn't think it was possible; until last night that is.
Gilbert King in Mount Dora last night
The Community Building in town was packed to listen to Gilbert King. He walked the audience through the main legal aspect of the story, used photos that had been taken by Time Magazine in 1948, but had never been published in the magazine, and then he spent the remainder of the time doing a Q&A. This man didn't skip a beat. His entire presentation was so fluid and interesting and he was so gracious during the Q&A. I, on the other hand, was sitting there thinking to myself, maybe I'm just a snobby English Lit Major and I expected better questions to come from the audience, but these questions are AWFUL! Yet, King stood up there on the stage, taking it all in stride.

I went home on cloud nine last night. To sit in on a Pulitzer Prize winner's presentation, especially for those of us in the book world, is a huge deal, but to be able to have that opportunity in my small town only elevated the experience. Some days I get moving too fast and forget just how one of a kind my life is and how truly unique it is, but then events like last night happen and I am reminded of just how blessed I am.
Of course we had to snap a selfie
Have you read Devil in the Grove yet? I'd love to hear your thoughts on the book.
If you haven't, I highly, highly recommend you read it, especially if your a local Lake Count-ian (totally not a word). You will be shocked and appalled by the truly horrific human brutality that took place, but you'll walk away with a newfound truth and I'm a firm believer that by knowing the truth, we can avoid recreating the past.

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