In Vona, Colorado, in 1930, thirteen-year-old Myles Vincent rescues a coyote pup and brings him home to the farm where he has been living for the past year, with his twin sister Clare and their parents, Shirley and Lionel. The family moved to Vona from Missouri, to farm land claimed by Myles’ grandfather back in 1890. It’s not an easy life, but Lionel is convinced that hard work and modern methods will tame the prairie and allow them to grow wheat to feed the world. Why else would God have brought them there?
Their neighbor, Herbert Moser, son of Russian-German immigrants, is not so sure. He plants a little bit of everything, in case one crop fails, keeps cows, pigs, and goats (goats will eat anything), and even has five children in case some perish. Herbert, along with other ranchers, watches with concern as the farmers dig the soil and wages war against the coyotes that threaten his calves. He is not impressed with Myles’ new pup.
Moving on to Evanston, Illinois, in 2002, where Andy Vincent-McKay has to give up his bedroom when his grandfather, Myles, moves in with them. Andy’s mother tells him to always kiss his grandfather goodbye in the morning because there’s no telling how long he’ll be with them. When Andy comes home one afternoon to a strangely quiet house, he can’t remember whether or not he kissed his grandfather that morning. Now he’s gone. But not forgotten. Andy is haunted by his grandfather’s bad jokes, the box of papers he left behind and with the instruction to tell his story. “Everything you need is in the bourbon box,” he had said. But, Andy has his own problems: he’s not doing terribly well in school, doesn’t have a lot of friends, and can’t get away from his controlling mother. These are worlds away from the problems Myles faced farming the Great Plains during the dust bowl and Great Depression.
The two stories are told well, with just a handful of places where description and story telling slip into lecturing about history. The Depression-era farm and its family, in particular, spring to life with its struggles and pleasures and hold the heart of the book. Andy’s journey back to that time and place lead him to a better understanding of his own place in his own time and family.
A well-told tale of a family’s trials, tribulations, and redemption, spanning three generations, ideal for young teens interested in history.
Reviewed by Brid Nolan for IndieReader.