Fourteen-year-old Martin must run the family farm after his father is seriously injured in an accident.
The management of the homestead is all the more complicated because his mother, grief-stricken over the death of Martin’s brother, abuses patent medicines, rendering her more passive spectator than participant. Nevertheless, Martin takes on the challenge of getting a crop into the ground. He’s aided by a Roma boy, Samson, whom he befriends. Rumors hint at a family treasure lost on the farm. Martin discovers his aunt Cora’s diary, penned nearly 40 years before and ending with her childhood death. It contains clues to the treasure, if only he can step out of his self-focus to understand them. While he’s believably limned, other characters are less well-developed, diminishing their impact. Set in rural Minnesota in 1903, this evocative effort neatly weaves in period details. It reflects the demands of farming and the significant prejudice that was harbored by the white farmers against the Roma, documented both in the story that depicts their culture and in an informative author’s note. (Both story and author’s note use “Roma” and “Gypsy,” depending on context.) Although the story is focused on Martin’s coming-of-age and his evolving friendship with Samson, the treasure hunt subplot adds additional drama.
A good bet for fans of historical fiction. (Historical fiction. 10-14)