Frank Drum, 13, and his younger brother Jake are catapulted into adulthood the summer of 1961 in their small Minnesota town as they become involved in investigation of a series of violent deaths.  Their father, a Methodist minister, and their mother, a singer and musician, can’t protect them from knowing more than children perhaps should know about suicide, mental illness, and unprovoked violence.  The story is Frank’s retrospective, 40 years later, on that summer and its lasting impact on their family, including what he and his brother learned about the complicated ways people are driven to violence and the equally complicated range of ways people respond to violence and loss—grief, anger, depression, and sometimes slow and discerning forgiveness.  


This story is told with a gentle compassion on the narrator’s part for the boy he was when the bad things happened that complicated his moral psychological understanding.  Though there is plenty of suspense, the narrative is also reflective.  Its appeal to moral and sometimes religious imagination is sufficiently complex to avoid sentimentality, and enough ambiguities remain at the end to remind readers of all that doesn’t get “solved” when the facts of a mysterious death or disappearance are disclosed.  A fine coming-of-age novel that focuses on several important issues related to mental and spiritual health, effects of racism, depression and despair, and fear.


Atria Books

Place Published

New York



Page Count


Secondary Source