Red Deer. Mar. 2021. 238p. pap. $14.95. ISBN 9780889956346.
Gr 7 Up–The Athabasca is the Canadian river the Whyte family lives on during the Depression between the two World Wars. Fifteen-year-old Jack is making plans to leave his family. Jack’s father, Malcolm, is taciturn and withdrawn and as a result, the family is constantly on guard. Jack leaves after helping his father take a load of pelts to sell in town. Once the family realizes Jack is not coming home, Malcolm goes in search of him. When he finds Jack, the boy has been injured, and together they go on to survive a life-threatening flood. This near-catastrophic event serves as a crack in the wall Malcolm built around himself as a result of serving in the Great War. Though the beginning seems to be a coming-of-age story about Jack, the novel shifts and becomes the story of Malcolm preparing his boys for manhood. The characters’ thoughts have a vagueness to them that keep readers from clearly understanding what is happening in the relationships between father and sons. This may be purposeful since Malcolm is so closed off to his own family, but it leaves readers confused. The descriptions of the Canadian wilderness might be enough to keep some readers’ attention but the unforthcoming, reticent natures of the characters might turn some students away. Back matter including an afterword and an interview with Kleinhuis provide closure to the story, but not necessarily satisfaction.
VERDICT This is a nicely written novel but it will likely not be a big circulator in school libraries.

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