What lies beyond the trees promises to bring one of two things—either powerful glory or terrible heartache.
Told in the easy, laconic tone of good, Southern storytelling, Hackl’s debut rolls off the tongue and into the heart easy as warm butter on a biscuit. Set near the now-empty mill town of Electric City, Mississippi, the story deals with issues of loss, abandonment, and coping with the instability mental illness can bring to a family. Protagonist Cricket is searching for her absent mama. She believes that if she goes into the woods where daddy taught her about the land and mama taught her about birds and flowers and painting, she’ll find the answers she’s been seeking. However, it takes gumption to run off into the Mississippi woods straight toward a ghost town—and learning how to survive on her own isn’t so easy either. Hackl does a great job of describing Cricket’s adventure through her hunter-gatherer skills—from finding bamboo shoots in the dirt to what to do with a “field of clover, dandelion greens, wild onion, and two hickory nut trees.” Cricket, with her pet cricket (named Charlene) and her unwavering belief in her mama, learns that some people can’t be changed and that life can be both beautiful and cruel. Cricket seems to be white.
Lyrical and endearing, this debut is a genuine adventure tale, poignant and as fresh as a spring garden. (Fiction. 8-12)