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3.0 out of 5 stars Fly Like an Eagle, Let My Spirit Carry Me, March 31, 2005
This review is from: Home Free (Mass Market Paperback)
When 15-year-old Sam Brooks' father dies in a car accident, he has to confront some major life changes. Sam's mother Philippa wants to return to her native New England, so she and Sam leave Indiana and Sam's paternal grandparents and the farm Sam where Sam grew up. Once in New England, Philippa throws herself into restoring the old house they live in and inspiring a love of literature to Sam and area youth.

Sam's first friend is an elderly ornithologist named Gus Early who has carved out a career photographing eagles. Gus tells Sam of the terrible floods during the 1920s that have wiped out four small communities. This in turn has caused a reservoir and many families were forced to relocate. Sam researches these communities along with the help of Philippa, who supports the boy's interest.

As expected, Sam becomes fascinated with the eagles, the environment and their safety. He confronts Gus' impending death and sadly accepts the inevitable. He also has some other issues to contend with, including Lucy. He meets Lucy while she is out on a nature walk with a group of children from the town's Home for the Homeless (what a depressing name for a place)! She exhibits behavior that fits the classic profile of Kanner's or infantile autism. She does not speak; make eye contact or interact in any way others can find meaningful. Sam is drawn to the "mysterious girl" and visits her at the Home. One thing that I had trouble buying was how the staff openly disclosed Lucy's diagnosis and history with Sam who himself was a minor and in no way related to Lucy. Also, the definition of autism that was provided is incorrect - autism is NOT a "mental disorder;" it IS a neurobiological condition that affects sensory processing and communication to varying degrees, based on the individual. I also did not like the way the staff talked to the girl and moved her about as if she were an object. Whatever happened to client confidentiality? For Pete's Sake!

In time, the pair bond and Lucy takes Sam through the world of the eagles, the mystical, magical, mysterious "time traveling" through their bond with the eagles. Although it made for a fairly interesting premise and the descriptions and information about the eagles was first rate, I thought this was a rather weird story. Time and space were fluid and not clearly defined; the way the time travel sequence was portrayed was a tad confusing and did not quite blend as well with the other parts of the story. The other objection I had was that it was never really clear which time frame Lucy originated and the way her life history seemed to change on a dime. I also did not like the fact that Lucy was "cured" of autism and showed no traces of the condition and how she was predictably adopted by Philippa. That made for too predictable an outcome.

The book was tediously written in parts and what weakened an otherwise good effort was the fantasy element. That dragged in places and the fluid boundaries that time was given (a property that time really does NOT have - time is rigid and immutable) and the death and reinstatement of life in some of the characters made for a bizarre and somewhat confusing story. I loved the factual information about the eagles and the author's notes about the New England area and its history.

This book made me think of the 1976 Steve Miller Band classic "Fly Like an Eagle." Very a propos indeed.
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Home Free
Home Free by Kathryn Lasky (Hardcover - December 1, 1985)
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