cover image The Garden of Eden Motel

The Garden of Eden Motel

Morse Hamilton. Greenwillow Books, $16 (160pp) ISBN 978-0-688-16814-8

Thoroughly convincing portraits of both an era and a thoughtful, likable 11-year-old emerge in this carefully crafted novel by the late Hamilton (Belching Hill; Effie's House). In 1952, Dal and his stepfather, Harry, spend several months in a motel in rural Eden, Idaho, where Harry, a crop inspector for a seed company, is working for the summer. The appealing and finely balanced third-person narrative unfolds through Dal's perspective, with a dry Midwestern humor. Upon his arrival in Eden, for example, when Harry introduces his stepson to Mr. and Mrs. Turner, Dal muses, ""(Why did people shake hands? Dogs sniffed each other. Not that he would want to sniff the Turners)."" Hamilton smoothly traces the events that expand the boy's horizons and sense of independence (he works for awhile in the bean fields, falls for a spunky girl, invests his savings in a uranium mine and saves Harry's life when a snake bites the man), as he wonders often about his father, who died in WWII when Dal was two years old; and about his mother and step-sister at home in Detroit. Most affectingly, the author reveals the growing trust and communication between the boy and his good-hearted stepfather. Ages 10-up. (Oct.)