With a brutal, despicable father who beats him and an ineffectual mother incapacitated by drugs, Burl, 14, has learned not to expect anything good from life. After a crisis, he runs away into the wilderness near his small Canadian town, eventually stumbling upon an isolated house that is the secret refuge of a famous musician. Burt ingratiates himself, making himself useful while harboring the hope of staying on. But the boy's relationship with his reluctant savior is only the first in a series of encounters with those who want to use him, assist him, control him, or threaten him. Wynne-Jones (The Book of Changes, 1995, etc.) skillfully presents a complex character who, in order to survive, uses all his resources: knowledge of the woods; an instinctive understanding of the manipulations of adults; strategy; brutality, the legacy of his father; and compassion. Lyrical writing combines with an unpredictable, unusual plot to convincingly test a teenager facing life-altering choices. A truly compelling adventure story.