Will Morrissey is the protagonist of this coming of age story set in an unidentified northern Wisconsin resort area. He is 14, city born and naïve to the ways of the wooded rural, lake community he finds himself vacationing in with his family.
Will’s bad-tempered, domineering father uses Will as his main target and the explosive scenes are gut wrenching. Will’s Mom has been cowed by his mean tempered harangues, and Will’s younger brother has chosen self-imposed silence as a defense.
The family dynamic tends to be predictable, however, once Will is left on his own with resort owners, Jeanne and Augie, the story becomes one of self-discovery.
Will is believable and his interaction with Bernie, the young Indian girls he meets, is fun. Their dialogue is crisp and sometimes hesitant, typical to two teens trying to know one another without giving too much away.
Bernie instructs Will in the life of her small community and helps him understand the contrast between the life shown the tourist and the darker side on the reservation.
The novel is the first in a planned trilogy. McCurdy, primarily known for his four Andy McLeod mysteries, has a very different story to tell this time.
I enjoyed meeting the many characters in the novel. I do wish McCurdy had used less narrative and instead let his characters develop the story through dialogue and action. It’s one thing to ‘tell’ a story around a campfire, but when using the written word ‘telling’ can become didactic.
That said, I admit I’m looking forward to the next chapter in Will’s maturation.