In spite of my distaste for the emphasis on dust, grime, dampness, mud, bad smells and instant potato flakes, I came to realize this book is masterfully written and I couldn’t let myself look away. The characters are well developed, each having a distinct personality and perspective. The story is told alternating between the voices of four young people, as described in the flyleaf:
Lorraine Hobbs, a precocious loner who brings meals to the prison;
Annette Weinland, the local minister’s daughter, who volunteers at the prison;
Thelma Cooke and Edgar Kwagley, two Yup’ik adolescents orphaned and displaced from their native communities.
The drama revolves around a boy named Dove Alexie, a half-breed orphan who shows himself as intelligent, vocal, and full of rage. He gets into trouble at the boarding school and is sent away. He is held over night at the local jail because the children’s home is full the night he is brought in. He gets beaten up by the assistant marshal and turns up missing. When Lorraine starts to get attached to solving the mystery of what happened to him, she starts to grow up.
I always pictured Alaska as beautiful and magical. This novel shows it as poor, drunk, racist and beaten down. Here’s a reality check; a view the tourist don’t see. Put this book on your list to read and pass it on to the teens in your life.