Seeing off Uncle Jack ISBN: 9780745169071
Published by Chivers Large Print, 1997
Uncle Jack is dead. Winnie and her brothers can't find much to regret, since he had been to them only a blind and lazy old man. When Danny refuses to come to the funeral, their mother is horrified and angry - family is all-important to this West Indian family. Winnie finds it hard to say anything to Auntie Ren about her uncle's death, but manages to remember some tricks he played with the children which they enjoyed when they were younger, and Auntie Ren is pleased with that. There is something mysterious about Uncle Jack's early life, and gradually the facts emerge. Far from being a lazy, layabout, Uncle Jack had been a famous tap dancer: 'Jack Sprat, the negro with brains in his feet'. Special tap shoes had been named 'Sprats' after him, and Danny, who is also a dancer, resents and despises the black and white minstrel image he thinks his uncle represented. It is only when the final chapter of Uncle Jack's active life comes out - the fact that he led an apartheid demonstration in South Africa and lost his sight when a canister of tear-gas went off in his face - that Danny realises his mistake. His special gift to his uncle is a new pair of Sprats to put on the coffin at the funeral. Very moving, beautifully written, and with a special 'voice'. Not only about coping with death and feelings of embarrassment and inadequacy in the face of grief, but excellent also on family relationships.