A 12-year-old girl from small-town Texas finds dinosaur bones that might save the family farm.
Esme’s paternal grandfather, Paps, died of a heart attack three months ago while digging for something on Solace Hill. His tractor sits on the spot where he died. Her grandmother, Bee, is too busy trying to keep the family afloat selling peaches and honey to move it; her mother, June Rain, won’t hardly get up off the couch; and her father ran off three years ago. Curling up beneath the tractor in search of some remnant of Paps, Esme sees a bone sticking up out of the earth. At first she’s terrified but later enlists a friend to help her uncover what turns out to be a dinosaur skull. The family is about to lose the farm to foreclosure, so her motivation for keeping the dinosaur a secret is not quite clear. Neither is the profusion of side plots that bog down the primary narrative. Bee is known for her magical finding powers, a talent Esme seems to have inherited, but the magic has no real bearing on the actual plot, and in the end Esme’s engaging voice isn’t enough to make sense of the mishmash. The 1972 setting is realized only through a number of cultural references that modern readers are not likely to recognize, and the persistent whimsy of the townspeople becomes cloying. The novel adheres to a white default.
Crowley’s a promising writer, but the story doesn’t land. (Historical fiction. 8-12)