by Sonya Hartnett

From his apparent deathbed, twenty-year-old Gabriel reflects on his painful childhood,... read more

From his apparent deathbed, twenty-year-old Gabriel reflects on his painful childhood, beginning with the accidental death of his brother, Vernon, by Gabriel’s own hand. A narrative that unfolds through short chapters alternate between Gabriel’s memories and those of Finnigan, a character whose very existence is never confirmed. Was he truly a wild child, demanding Gabriel’s complicity in all kinds of nefarious behavior that included a string of arsons that nearly level the town, or is he a split part of Gabriel himself, a personality that Gabriel relied on as an escape from his own guilt? With exceptionally beautiful language, Hartnett explores the human capacity for evil and self-loathing, both of which are influenced by the cruelness of adults towards their impressionable children. Love and family connectedness might be a way out for Gabriel, and his devotion to a girl named Evangeline offers the potential for peace where his own family has only caused him psychological havoc: “But to me, who came from nowhere, whose family tree spreads no further than a girl in a photograph, who glimpsed the future only through sheenless prisms of my parents, Evangeline’s history seemed a precious and extraordinary thing. I liked the way the sturdy branches of her tree life her up to the sun.” But with Finnigan’s constant shadow casting darkness and fear over all of Gabriel’s dreams, and a mother determined to ruin his life, Gabriel’s imminent death might be the greatest gift. (Age 13 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2007

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