In Sedwick’s novel, 14-year-old Andy revisits the frontier adventures of his grandfather, Myles.
Sedwick says she was inspired to write her first historical novel by her father’s stories about growing up during the Dust Bowl years. The chapters meander among the viewpoints of Andy, who’s living in Evanston, Ill., in the early 2000s; Myles, his grandfather, who’s growing up in the 1930s in Vona, Colo.; and Ro, the coyote adopted as an injured pup by Myles and his family. Generations apart, Andy and Myles share a shyness and lack of interest in school and a gift (or curse) for puns and corny jokes. Inspired by a bourbon box filled with sundry objects his grandfather gave him just before dying of heart failure, Andy sets out to discover more about Grandfather’s early days and to record his many stories. Myles, in the meantime, skips school, tries to keep himself and his coyote pup out of trouble, and (with his sister, Claire) bemoans their existence in a remote town that lacks running water, electricity and a movie theater. The descriptions animate the characters; for example, Myles’ neighbor Herbert is “a man as coarse as a cowhand and as dated as an iron plow, a man who was as squat and dirty as his own sugar beets, a man who stank of cow manure and kerosene.” But the tale goes overboard in its anthropomorphism of Ro, even for a book that would be best enjoyed by a young teen. Watching the neighbor’s dog, “Ro wondered if she ever slept, truly slept. He wondered if she ever played with the children, if she ever ran simply to feel the wind in her ears, if she ever flew in the back of the truck. He did not think so.” Andy ultimately takes the station wagon Myles left him, and he heads west to see if he can inhabit his grandfather’s tales.
This well-crafted, entertaining read may inspire teenagers to learn more about the life and times of their grandparents.