Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Sittin' Up by Sheila P. Moses

For 12 year old Stanbury Jones, Jr., called Bean, the night that his friend, Mr. Bro. Wiley, the 100 year old former slave that lived with the Jones family, passes away begins one of the most important weeks in his life. 

Mr. Bro. Wiley had lived with Bean’s family for 5 years, since 1935.  Bean and his best friend Martha Rose, called Pole, spent much of their childhood in the company of this loving, gentle man, listening to his stories about life in the Low Meadows community, and learning from his experience.  

Now, with the death of Mr. Bro. Wiley, Bean and Pole both want to be part of the sittin’ up, the week long custom of mourning and remembering the dead, and where the body is brought home and laid out for neighbors to pay their respects the night before the funeral.  And finally, when Bean and Pole are both told they are old enough to participate in the sittin’ up, they vow to do the best they can for their friends.

At the same time that the community is preparing for Mr. Bro. Wiley’s sittin’ up, a big storm is predicted to be coming their way and since most of the community lives by the river, it is cause for some concern.  

And if a sittin’ up and a storm aren’t enough, Bean’s mother, Magnolia Jones, is pregnant with her second child and just about due.

Needless to say, these three things come together at the same time and while there are no big surprises, The Sittin’ Up ends on a very hopeful note not often seen in middle grade fiction.  

The characters may feel somewhat stereotypical, but Moses grew up in the area she writes about, one of 10 children living on Rehobeth Road in Rich Square, so I would presume she knew what she was writing.

As much as I enjoyed reading this novel, I felt like something was missing.  First off, I kept wondering why Mr. Bro. Wiley was called by that name when his real name was George Lewis Wiley.  Moses explained how Bean and Pole got their nicknames, and even why Mr. Bro. Wiley called Bean’s mother Christmas, but nothing about this most enigmatic of names.

The Sittin’ Up is told in the first person by Bean, and while that allows Moses to easily get in wonderful descriptions of the Low Meadows and the town of Rich Square, it also allows Bean to go off on disconcerting tangents about people and events from the past, there to gives us a better window of what life used to be like.  It suffers from the stilted colloquial-filled dialect and some annoying repetition.  All this rich description left the present characters a bit empty feeling, lacking in real feeling and emotion, and they feel like they are flatly repeating dialogue.   

I wish I had liked this better, because I had really been looking forward to reading it.

This book is recommended for readers age 10+
This book was obtained from the publisher 


  1. Hello Alex, when I started reading your review I assumed Bro stood for brother – I have no idea why it was just what came into my head. I’m sure the term brother wasn't used like it is now– but there is something about Brother Wiley that sounds right!
    I’ve read a few reviews now, and none have been overly positive. Kirkus ended by saying ‘Like sweet tea with sweet-potato pie, it’s too much sugar, not enough spice’ such a shame because it sounded so promising.

    1. I think most people would assume Bro stands for Brother, but nothing was mentioned about it. I can agree with the Kirkus review, it is too sweet. This is such a missed opportuntiy since the descriptions of the area are actually quite nice.


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