In this YA coming-of-age novel, a disabled boy goes to live on his grandfather’s farm, meets a mysterious clan, and discovers special powers.
All Moojie wants to do is belong, but he never seems to fit in. Discovered as a foundling in a small California coastal town in 1892—with the name “Moojie” scrawled on his forehead—he’s adopted by the Littlemans. As a very small child, he can make objects fly using only his mind, among other unusual abilities. But he “didn’t talk or walk when he should have,” and “his left arm seemed only half-awake”; he needs crutches and leg braces as well, which disappoints his Papa. Moojie grows up lonely with only one friend: a deaf cat named Phineas. His warm, loving Mamma dies when he’s 8, and Papa takes the boy and his cat to his father Pappy’s place, St. Isidore’s Fainting Goat Dairy in the Valley of Sorrows. Although he’s warned against Hostiles in the surrounding wilderness, Moojie—now a teenager—glimpses a barefoot girl stealing eggs, and he’s determined to know more: “He ached for friendship, to be a valued member of something. That girl couldn’t have been alone.” He seeks out her clan; they come from far away, speak in riddles, address Moojie as “my lord,” and have much to teach him. He falls for Babylonia, the beautiful egg-stealer, and discovers within himself the ability to heal animals and people—but when trouble brews on several fronts, Moojie faces a difficult choice. Gregory’s debut novel weaves together familiar elements, such as an outcast with special powers, in unexpected ways. Moojie is endearing and sympathetic but never infantilized because of his disability. Despite the book’s many serious themes, which Gregory handles well, it also has a light touch. The author’s verbal playfulness adds to the book’s fun, as when an aunt swallows Moojie “in a pentamorous hug, her body all tentacles and suction.” The book’s mysticism is lucidly presented, and its magical realism is effective, moving, and heartening.
A lively, original take on a story of a boy with more limits—and more magic—than most.