Vividly detailed characters and subtle social observations mark Sperling’s unassuming but poignant debut.
1890. Sixteen-year-old Jess Picaro has been living a wild existence. When a chance arises for him to take a train heading to the wild West, Jess knows he has to grab it even if it means pretending to be the lost brother of the spunky five-year-old orphan Mary Elizabeth.
After they arrive at their destination, the small community of Buckner, Kansas, Jess throws himself into his new life, unaware his past is about to catch up with him soon. Imbued with the textures and traditions of a small mid-Western town of late nineteenth century, the narrative is pulled along by a series of effortlessly incorporated casual happenings of everyday lives of Jess and others.
Intelligent, crisp prose and intriguing storyline keep the reader turning pages fast. Sperling’s writing is assured, dialogue sharp, and the novel’s pace measured yet swift. The storyline is fairly straightforward, but this is a story with psychological meat, that of cozy friendships, what it means to be family, and second chances.
Through Jess’s story, Sperling shows the reader the power of family, perseverance, and faith. Both the portrayal of Jess’s struggles with his inner demons and the questions he weighs about his own future in the face of his dreadful past feel wholly genuine.
A journey to the 1890s American Midwest alongside a courageous teenager as he discovers himself while trying to escape from a mysterious past.
Sperling’s insightful exploration of acceptance, understanding, and forgiveness will resonate with readers looking for complex characters and rich prose. Lyrically written, poignant, and wholly transporting, the novel is sure to delight both young and old.
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