by K A Nuzum Book : Elementary and junior high school : Fiction  |  1st ed
Boyhood to Manhood on the Ranch   (2009-10-13)
A fascinating read. The author develops the main character, sixteen-year-old Will, and his twin brother, Denny in rich detail and interest. Denny is most likely a Down Syndrome child though it is never specifically stated in the book. I enjoyed descriptions of him. Here's an example of an exchange between Denny and Will. "Ding-dong." "Stop it, Denny." Denny reached out and pushed the black doorbell again. "That is a happy sound. It is fun for my ears. Ding-dong." Later, Denny and Will are on the phone to each other and Will pauses to think. "Will? I can't see if you are there. Are you there?" The author gives many details through-out the book of Denny's unique body movements, as well, adding to our understanding of his condition and delighting us with his sincerity, humor and simple way of looking at life.
Denny needs constant direction and care. That is where Will comes in. Their mother died suddenly (an all too-common theme in kids' books) and the father makes Will care-taker over Denny so he doesn't have to be bothered and he doesn't have to feel the loss of his wife. Hank, the foreman teaches Will "man" things, such as roping and bull-riding, but his father remains distant. The book is centered around Will, who attempts to tear away from home to be free from the clutches of his brother. The details kept me reading. Gratefully, the end didn't come with a rush and a clunk, as can happen in kids' books. It ends nicely, with father proud of his son, Will, inviting him back home to do a "man's" work. Denny is happily offered a job with a doctor-friend, performing simple tasks for him, freeing Will to return home. Will’s father tells him that he is free to leave home again if things don't work out to his liking.
The killer coyote that Will had been after for so long (for killing his dog), is finally within range of Will's gun, but when he gets the chance to blow him to smithereens, he sees in the coyote's eyes the same resignation that he admits he has felt for so long, too long. He shoots into the air instead, letting the animal go free. The coyote "tilted his scuffy tan muzzle up toward the rising star Polaris. He voice filed the sweet air with a short, triumphant howl, and then he was gone. Alive. Free. Like me. Like Denny. My brother Denny." It was a sweet, but realistic way to end.
I do not relate to the setting of a ranch, other than driving through Wyoming, North and South Dakota, and Montana on vacations, places where the land goes forever and the sky even farther. However, I feel a connection to the book. Life doesn't go the way you would plan if you were in control, and you don't know why things are the way they are, but you come to some kind of "ease" about it and go on. This has happened for me, and it happened for Will. His father admits that he made a mistake in making Will care-take Denny ever since his mother's death 7 years previous, but he has no regrets, as Will has given Denny much more of a life than he would have had if he had been institutionalized. And Will? His father says that Will has learned patience and tolerance and how to care for another human being and "alot more about being a man than I ever knew." That touches Will. And his father. A bittersweet moment. Will has courage to tell his father that the day his mother died, he felt he lost both his mother and his father. His father states that he can't change the past, only the future and that statement has to be enough. I can relate, as my mother "disappeared" into her own grief for about a year or more after the death of my father.
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