Age Range: 10 - 14
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 In a compelling novel, Thesman (The Ornament Tree, 1996, etc.) combines a tale rich in family ties and homey comforts with history that is unsettling and unpleasant. In Depression-era Seattle, Quinn Wagner, 15, copes with a houseful of relatives, a mother in poor health, an older sister who dropped out of school to work, and an exasperating kid brother. Her father, affectionately called Beau John by all, is the emotional linchpin and center of his extended family, his tales and stories cherished by them and his unobtrusive acts of kindness known to the whole neighborhood. But he is away save for one night a week, chasing work. When Quinn overhears a conversation that hints at her father's unsavory and dangerous employment, she keeps it and her growing fears to herself. Knit seamlessly into the tale are rabidly anti-communist Catholics, Hoovervilles where homeless men live in shacks and search futilely for jobs, and Prohibition-era rum-running; meanwhile, Quinn's family and friends deal endlessly but ingeniously with financial hardship. As the summer goes on, Quinn finds her affection growing for her elderly neighbors' nephew and, as she learns of the lengths to which her father has gone to help support them, develops a more complex, less black-and-white outlook regarding Beau John's business. The denouement is satisfying but not simpleit's a small light the future holds. Above all, Quinn's story puts a human face a time most readers only know by its namethe Depression. (Fiction 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-395-80978-9
Page count: 180pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1997


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