Harvey, a curious little white West Highland terrier, roams away when his dogsitter forgets to latch the gate.
Although his getting lost is frightening and heartbreaking for both Harvey and Maggie, his bereft young owner, it’s providential for Mr. Walter Pickering, a very elderly resident of a continuing-care facility, and for Austin, who volunteers there—kind of. His service is actually payback his grandfather is exacting for a big mistake involving firecrackers that the lonely 11-year-old made in school. Pickering has always been gruff and reclusive. But after friendly Harvey turns up at the facility (and remains there because Austin, desperately wanting the dog, fails to look for his owner), the man begins to tell Austin—and Harvey—his vividly realized, sometimes brutal tales of growing up on the Saskatchewan prairie during the Dust Bowl. In these short episodes, readers learn how young Pickering befriended impoverished Bertie, who was abused, then abandoned by her drunken father but, being a young girl of rare spirit and determination, survived. Accompanied by his own beloved dog, Pickering and Bertie navigated the immense challenges of the era, their woeful experiences almost subsuming the primary plot in which Austin and Maggie both persevere in their own difficult situations. Affecting, riveting, and evocative, this character-driven tale within a tale, with narrative perspective alternating among Harvey, Austin, and Maggie, believably reveals the best and sometimes the worst of human nature. The cast defaults to white.
Much more than a lost-dog story. (Fiction. 10-13)