Written by: T.R. Pearson
Photography by: Langdon Clay
Review by: Paul H. Yarbrough
Year of Our Lord is a biography of an extraordinary man named Lucas McCarty who claims he is “white on the outside but black on the inside.” Born in 1986 and deprived of oxygen prior to delivery, Lucas became stricken with cerebral palsy (CP) and consequently developed virtually no verbal skills. When not in a wheelchair, which he eschews regularly, Lucas moves on his knees. He also relies on a device known as Minspeak as his primary communication source.
The book’s author, T.R. Pearson gives readers an honest look into the lives of Lucas and of those who love him, including the early struggle Lucas’ mother and father had with their own devotion to Lucas. “We dealt with what went on with Lucas in different ways,” his father, Chuck McCarty, says. Lucas’ mother, Elizabeth, a school teacher by profession, explains, “I just wanted to help him…I’d cling to anything.”
Elizabeth and Chuck divorced when Lucas was six and Elizabeth carried on a long weekly commute from Indianola, Miss. to Germantown, Tenn. (suburb of Memphis) for eleven years in an effort to provide Lucas access to a well-established special education program. Finally, when progress ceased, Elizabeth and Lucas moved back to Indianlola, Miss. permanently.
Pearson’s book focuses on the story of Lucas and this Indianola community in the Mississippi Delta where Lucas’ grandfather, John Woods was employed by Ole Miss Football hall-of-famer and catfish farmer, Jimmy Lear. Lear begins taking Lucas to the Trinity House of Prayer, an all black church where Lucas becomes a choir member (though his sounds are sonorous rather than lyrical). The church members and their leader, Bishop Willie B. Knighten, are depicted well in this book and it’s clear that the community includes more than one special soul.
Pearson describes the Delta contemporarily, using a comparative backdrop of the past to give the reader a lesson in history and shining a rare positive light on the magic of the Delta. The photography of Langston Clay supplements the book well, reminding us that a picture is worth a thousand words.
Readers can’t help but root for Lucas as he tries to play the hand he was dealt. Through his Minispeak device Pearson concludes the book with Lucas’ own words: “Not getting to say what you want is hard. That’s why I learned to talk. Now I work… I love my church, and I’d like a girlfriend, a nice girl I could hang out with and date. When people look at me, I want them to know I’m not just a boy in a chair.”
The story and the photography have created a strong fan base for Year of Our Lord, and the extraordinary inspiration of Lucas McCarty makes it a book you’ll want to pass on to friends and family with a gentle nudge to, “Read this. It’ll change your life.”
T.R. Pearson has written 11 novels, including the acclaimed A Short History of a Small Place, and Seaworthy, a true account of a 70-year-old man crossing the Pacific Ocean by raft.
Langdon Clay has been a photographer for House and Garden and his work was featured in Jefferson’s Monticello.