Rating: 4 stars
Note: As stated under the Source (above), I received this book for free from Algonquin via NetGalley. I pride myself on writing fair and honest reviews.
Summary: Daniel and Cathy live with their father on a quiet, remote piece of land, in a house they built with their own hands. Their mother was in an and out of the picture until one day she was just out. While their father worked, they mostly lived with their Gran, their father coming and going for long stretches, until one day he decided to settle down. Most of his life, their father had used his body, a body built like few had ever seen, as a way to make money, either through hard labor, or, most often, through fighting. But he was getting older, and it was time to put that part of his life aside.
In their little house, they lived an unconventional life, getting schooling from a neighbor friend, and spending their time in the woods and with each other. They could work the land, provide for themselves, and needed only each other for company. Their way of life bred in them an exceptional resilience and sense of loyalty to each other, characteristics they’ll need desperately when trouble comes their way in the form of an unethical landowner who essentially owns the town and all who live in it.
Review: The thing about reading books that have won literary awards and the accolades of many is expectations are high from the onset, leaving a lot to prove. While I think this book was very good, and I appreciated it for what it was – excellent writing with stellar character development – it did not wow me. It’s better than good, but not amazing. So, here I am giving it 4 stars, which in my book is a great read, and I feel both guilty and disappointed that I couldn’t give it 5. But I digress…
Did I mention the character development was stellar? Because it was. And the mood was perfection. I loved the eccentricity of the characters, their commitment to each other and their home, their resiliency and their determination to rely on themselves.
I had some issues with the storyline that I just can’t seem to let go. I wish I could discuss it in-depth without giving away a main part of the plot, but I can’t think of a way to do that. All I can say is, either there is something I missed/misunderstood, a key piece of information was left out, or my ethics are vastly different. While I don’t agree with the severity of the consequences, I find it difficult to side with Daniel’s family in terms of the actual dispute. While I empathize with their position, and clearly the children had no part in the decisions that were made, their father could have (and should have) chosen differently, and his stubbornness cost them all greatly in the end.
Ultimately, great writing. Phenomenal characters, perfect mood, and the setting was so well wrought that I can close my eyes and picture it even now. But I struggled to side with the main characters because of the unethical choice their father made, and that put me at odds with the story overall. But still 4 solid stars.