A mother who disappears, two brothers left alone and a seemingly kindly neighbor make up the ingredients of this unsuccessful story about troubled families.
Eleven-year-old Curtis has always helped care for his little brother while their mother works and attends school. Now she has not come home, rent is due and food is running out. Haunted by memories of a horrible foster-care family with whom he stayed the first time his mother left him, Curtis fears that he will be separated from his little brother. Then strange but kindly Mrs. Burt, who lives across the street, offers money and meals. When she takes them to a remote lakeside cabin in British Columbia for the summer, Curtis is slowly drawn into this brave new world of chopping wood, building an outhouse and fishing. In truth, Mrs. Burt has “absconded” with the children because she mourns her son who drowned in the lake 40 years ago. Curtis’ mother has not run off but has been badly injured and is lying in a coma. In a few pages of the finale, the narrative flow abruptly wraps up, leaving too many loose ends and unanswered questions. Curtis’ first-person narration necessarily limits readers’ access to the puzzle, and his easy acceptance of the big reveal strains credulity.
The elements of a good story are present, but its telling lacks resonance, character development and depth of understanding. (Fiction. 8-12)