cover image Oasis


Gregory Maguire, Gregory Maguine. Clarion Books, $15 (176pp) ISBN 978-0-395-67019-4

Weaving his work more tightly than in his Seven Spiders Spinning, Maguire produces an idiosyncratic and touching story about personal tragedy and growth. Thirteen-year-old Hand Gunther finds his altruistic, pacifist father dead on the floor of the rundown Massachusetts motel they own. Abandoned by his mother three years earlier, the boy resents her fiercely when she moves back from the West Coast to take charge of the family and the motel. Numb with denial, awash with guilt, Hand misguidedly suspects his mysterious Uncle Wolfgang has some connection with his father's death, despite Wolfgang's efforts to help him through his loss. When two Iranian immigrants, father and son, come to the motel for refuge, Hand finds himself capable of his late father's kind of generosity. Slowly, he begins to feel something again. The discovery that Uncle Wolfgang is dying of AIDS finally brings the boy's stifled emotions to the surface. Although the text is over-saturated with chestnuts of wisdom from Emily Dickinson, Maguire steers clear of the earnest tones that often characterize YA bereavement stories. Instead, he deftly draws a cast of small town characters, and endows Hand with sharp and frank powers of narration. Ages 11-14. (Oct.)