by Jess Lourey
A 2020 release from
Thomas & Mercer
Even today a lot of people think of the Upper Midwest, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, as flyover land; as bucolic peaceful farm country where people live happy lives and all the children are above average. Like anywhere else, that isn’t entirely true. Darkness lurks in dim corners of dirt-floor basements, strange creatures walk at night, spirits seem to lurk around dim corners, and even family life can be questionable.
This novel is a story of one spring and summer in the young life of Cassie McDowell, a twelve-year old, sensitive and aware girl living with her troubled family on a small farm on the outskirts of Lilydale, Minnesota. Her family consists of an older sister, mother and father, a veteran of Viet Nam. He is a struggling artist who drinks too much and conducts wild and often strange parties, apparently on an errant whim.
The author’s grasp of the mental processes of young girls, their shifts in attitudes, seems to this aging reviewer to be spot on. Whether hiking through the groves or biking down winding rural roads or swimming in the local creek, Cassie and her companions seem to live the perfect life growing up. Except
Except there is always something there, something else that seems dark and menacing; something that dims the hot summer sun and increases the creaking stair sounds that might be her father coming to her bedroom.
The novel is tense, extremely well written, carefully aimed at a teen-age audience, yet patently attractive to an adult reader as well. The author is to be congratulated for obvious talent and gets high marks for the descriptive passages, the constant forward drive of the plot and the characters. I would have preferred some expansion of the resolution which seems a little abrupt. Nevertheless, this reviewer strongly recommends this novel with no reservations.