In this Vietnam-era epistolary novel, O’Connor (Sparrow Road) introduces a sweet and unexpected intergenerational friendship. When the feisty and persistent 11-year-old Reenie Kelly takes on a summer paper route that includes reclusive, elderly Mr. Marsworth, she begins to write him chatty, confessional letters. Her worries unfold believably: she’s new to the Minnesota town of Lake Liberty, desperately wishes for a friend, is frustrated living with her strict Grams after her mother’s death, and misses her absent father, who is working to pay off their medical debts. Foremost among her concerns is keeping her brother Billy out of the war by sending him to college, a seemingly impossible goal given their dire financial situation. The narrative also includes Reenie’s letter exchanges with her Vietnam soldier pen pal, Billy’s anti-war letter to the Minneapolis Tribune, and even Reenie’s plea to President Johnson to end the draft. O’Connor drives home the cost of protest, illustrating the enduring hatred in the community toward Quaker Mr. Marsworth for his conscientious objection to WWI (“TRATOR” is painted on his cottage) and the animosity toward Reenie’s family. The close-up on the remarkable relationship between Reenie and Mr. Marsworth shines here, as do the larger historical insights and the book’s resonant themes of pacifism and patriotism. O’Connor creates nostalgia for an era of pen-and-ink communications. Ages 10–up. Agent: Rosemary Stimola, Stimola Literary Studio. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/26/2018 Release date: 04/03/2018 Genre: Children's
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