A novel that follows the growth of a young boy—appropriately named Wrecker because caution is not a major aspect of his personality—to a man of 20, ready to take off on his own.
The circumstances that bring Wrecker to Bow Farm are unusual. He’s born in 1965 to a young woman who three years later is convicted of a crime involving drugs and guns. She’s put in prison for the foreseeable future, and her son is claimed by her brother-in-law Len, who doesn’t really want the burden and responsibility of a child, especially since Len’s wife, Meg, has recently suffered brain damage as the result of an infection. Len lives on a remote farm in the Mattole Valley, in Humboldt County, northern California. Somewhat bewildered by what to do about the boy, he takes him next door to Bow Farm, inhabited by an eccentric band of individualists who try to live off the unforgiving land. Earth Mother Melody is happy to have the boy and begins to raise Wrecker as her own child. Also populating the farm are Willow, who’s attracted to Len and eventually begins an affair with him; Johnny Appleseed, who becomes something of an environmental terrorist; and Ruth, an older woman who becomes a grandmother-figure to Wrecker. Meanwhile, Wrecker’s mother, Lisa Fay, is working out her sentence in the penitentiary and keeping faith that eventually she’ll be reunited with her son. Melody’s fear is that her role of adoptive parent is not sanctioned with any piece of paper, so she has no legal claim on the child. We watch the stages of Wrecker’s growth from a taciturn and skittish child to a more voluble and less isolated adult. The adults form an extended family for Wrecker and in the process lurch their way through the awkward stages of parenthood.
Wood (Arroyo, 2001) moves her characters gracefully through trying times, both cultural and personal.