From School Library Journal
Grade 6-9?Nathan Burns, 12, is growing up on a dilapidated farm in New York at the turn of the century. His father is bitter from a lifetime of mostly fruitless labor; his older brother Eric eschews the farming life for that of an artist; and Kitty, his 30-year-old cousin, attempts to add a gentle, woman's touch to their otherwise barren household. Nathan must contend with the rigors of farming, his father's criticism, the conflict between his father and his brother, as well as some unanswered questions about the death of his mother. When Eric runs away, Kitty and Nathan track him to New York City, where they discover that he has achieved both fame and notoriety. In the end, Kitty is happily married to a wealthy neighbor, Eric and his father are somewhat reconciled, the farm is thriving, and Nathan has matured. Schnur is good at capturing the rural atmosphere and historical ambiance of the early 1900s with vivid pastoral descriptions. The novel is less successful in a number of critical areas. First, Nathan's narrative voice wanders between that of a young boy and a mature, philosophical observer. The dialogue, while at times entertaining, is often stiff and stilted, and insufficient motivation is provided for the characters, leaving readers to wonder, for example, why Eric is so contrary. Finally, the plot is occasionally contrived and is unlikely to hold the interest of most young readers.?Tim Rausch, Crescent View Middle School, Sandy, UT
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Gr. 6^-9. Twelve-year-old Nathan narrates a coming-of-age tale that juxtaposes his relationship with his father and the family farm with that of his rebellious older brother, Eric. The confrontational violence that undergirds the relationship between Pa and Eric has led to Mama's disappearance and eventual death, a tragedy that begins to dissipate only after Pa's niece Kitty comes to live on the farm. Set at the time when New York City was a day's sail from the pastoral farms of Rhode Island, the story lovingly describes a life based on the vagaries of the elements and the frailties of humans. Carefully crafted characters slowly win your heart--from introspective Nathan to fun-loving, nurturing Kitty; from silent, angry Pa to easy, reliable Zeke, Mama's younger brother, who also comes to stay at the farm. The only person who doesn't quite gain your sympathy is Eric, portrayed as a dark and angry child who must alienate all around him to escape the expectations and all-consuming pressures of farm life. An exceptional book for that special group of readers that enjoys introspective, superbly crafted fiction. Frances Bradburn