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Book Club Kits: Out of the Night that Covers Me

Alamance County Public Libraries offer Book Club Kits for check out to area book clubs. Each kit contains 10 copies of a book and a reading guide.

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Pat Cunningham Devoto

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Book Summary

Alamance Reads Selection 2007

In Bainbridge, Alabama, eight-year-old John Gallatin McMillan lll has been the center of his mother's world, cloistered and pampered, until she unexpectedly dies. Taken away by his one remaining relative, his mother's sister, John soon learns that the new home awaiting him in Lower Peach Tree is a run-down tenant  farm in the heart of the Alabama Black Belt. There he is thrust into al life alien to anything he has ever known, working long hours in the fields for his violent, alcoholic uncle. 

As John fights for his survival, he comes to identify with the struggles of the poor blacks he encounters, and imagines that his salvation lies in escape to Chicago, just as they feel their own survival depends on going north to a new life. 

Instead, a twist of fate brings him to The Bend, a black settlement that has become a refuge for outcasts. Here John meets Mama Tuway, a powerful black healer: Ella, a young mother damaged by the ravages of abuse: and Tuway, a man straddling the black and white cultures and leading a dangerous life. But none of them - or anyone in Lower Peachtree - will be ready for the brutal confrontation between blacks and whites, and how it will foreshadow the historic struggle about to sweep across the country.

Discussion Questions

  • In the long run was it best for John that he was not spared his struggles? Do you think children today are too sheltered? Not sheltered enough?

  • Was Aunt Nelda trapped in her way of life any more so than women today?

  • If you were spirited back in time to live in the story, which female character would you most want to be?

  • Did Uncle Luther have any redeeming characteristics?

  • The book did not end with everyone living "happily ever after." Were you satisfied with this ending? Do you think it was realistic?

  • What elements in the story point out the good and bad sides of small town life?

  • What do you think were the most important factors in precipitating the civil rights movement? Rank in order of importance, 1 being the most important.

Rosa Parks
Martin Luther King, Jr.
E.D. Nixon
John and Robert Kennedy.
The automatic cotton-picking machine

  • Did John's transition match, in any way, the transformation that was taking place in the South as it was drawn kicking and screaming into a new era?

  • Was there that much difference in the life of the poor blacks and the poor whites in this story?