The textures of a 13-year-old's life in a small Minnesota town of 1935 are capably recalled in this well-cast first novel, but what gives the story its force is the bitter relationship between Ray and his oppressively unreasonable father and Dad, who drinks some and works very little and only makes a marginal go of the local dime store because his wife keeps the books and makes the decisions, is an exasperating petty tyrant at home. He pontificates with maddening indirection and always suspects the worst of his two sons without hearing their explanations. And when eight-year-old Bud falls down the stairs and breaks his leg, Ray is grounded until the cast comes off (a projected month of summer vacation) and, on his father's instigation, subjected to a baffling lecture on his guilt by the minister. But Ray's mother--less vivid, but just as interesting bides her time, and when Ray at last stands up to his father (who has forbidden Bud's cast removal just to prolong Ray's punishment), she too fights back, and sends Ray off to his grandparents for the liberated remainder of the summer. It's true that Graber has no interest in exploring Dad's character or hearing his story, but the portrait he draws and the tangible resentments he evokes are sure to win Ray a lot of supporters.