SMALL BLACK BOXES by Susan C. Turner


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The Pritchard family comes to terms with the death of a family member in Turner’s (Rufus Steele 1940, 2010, etc.) latest emotionally charged tale.

When Walter Pritchard is killed in Afghanistan near the village of Kandahar, his belongings are carried to the Pritchard home in a series of numbered black boxes. Within each box are mementos of the man’s life, returned to his family by the military after being carefully catalogued and separated. Learning from the contents of the boxes, young Leah Pritchard slowly copes with the absence of her father while, within the household, her little brother Noah and mother Elise attempt to do the same. Short chapters, each containing kernels of Walter’s life, work as intriguing windows for the reader to peer into the lives of America’s war-torn families and those who died in service to their country. Here we see one particular serviceman’s world and how each cherished article within the black boxes shaped the tightly knit, loving family he left behind. Leah, who consoles herself by spending time alone with her father’s possessions, finds the collar of Clyde, the family’s Labrador, within box five. In box six she finds a nearly complete painting her father made of a young Afghan girl. In box 11, a journal she shared with her father. Box one, however, Elise keeps for herself. In time, Leah learns of its mundane contents and of her mother’s fervent need to remember her husband’s smell and touch during her own tumultuous recovery process.  Turner’s style carries an alluring simplicity and offers no opinions on the war in Afghanistan, only in the way it affects the family of Walter Pritchard. Turner’s audience will likely find themselves mourning the death of Leah’s father with each chapter and subsequently learning how to live with the loss.

An often painful yet forthright tale of loss and healing in a time of war.

Pub Date: June 1st, 2010
ISBN: 978-0982284247
Page count: 79pp
Program: Kirkus Indie
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