cover image Park's Quest

Park's Quest

Katherine Paterson. Dutton Books, $13.99 (160pp) ISBN 978-0-525-67258-6

When Park was a baby, his father was killed in Vietnam. Since his mother won't talk about her husband, Park reads his father's old books in secret and travels alone one day to the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. to see his father's name. Finally, recognizing the urgency of her son's need to know about his father, Park's mother sends him on a visit to his paternal grandfather's farm. Life on the farm is not what Park had expected: for one thing, his grandfather is too ill (incapacitated by a stroke) to meet him. And, though he likes and admires his Uncle Frank, Park isn't at all sure how he feels about feisty Thanh, the daughter of Frank's Vietnamese wife. Park eventually forges strong bonds with both Thanh and his ailing grandfather, and confronts the painful, but not terribly surprising, truth about his father. Good storytelling makes up for a somewhat predictable plot, and Park's feelings are depicted with insight and care. The story of his quest will ring true to anyone who has ever used secondhand memories to piece together the portrait of an absent loved one. Ages 10-up. (April)