Haunted Journey

Ruth Riddell, Author Atheneum Books $14.95 (215p) ISBN 978-0-689-31429-2
Set in Tennessee in the hard times of 1931, this novel concerns young Obie Wilks, who is trying to keep his family together. A real-estate agent is going to take over the Wilks's farm if they can't pay off their debt to him. Obie and his friend Bas have a map based on a legend about massacred Indians in a haunted valley where a huge cache of freshwater pearls can be found. They hike ``up-country'' and locate the valley; against Bas's sensible advice, Obie tries to amass more pearls than he needs to save the family farm and nearly dies. Once home, Obie realizes that he can't abandon his family to seek his fortune, but finds compensation in the opportunity to try for a college scholarship. With a mix of interesting dialect and ambitious descriptive passages (``the ominous hooting of an unseen owl slithered through the shadows''), the novel is by turns a wilderness adventure tale, a ghost story and a save-the-farm family saga. But the diverse elements never mesh, making this an unsettling, unsatisfying novel. Ages 11-14. (October)
Reviewed on: 10/01/1988
Release date: 10/01/1988
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