Review by Donna Winters
A Second Home is compelling, well-paced, and saturated with sound values. It offers preteen and early teen boys an excellent adventure chock full of interesting characters and excellent advice on dealing with bullies.
The story opens in June 1957. The main character, 13-year-old Roger Tucker, runs away from home in Detroit to escape trouble with his parents. He hopes to find a caring relative in the Upper Peninsula with whom he can live until he comes of age. Upon his arrival in the fictional community of Iron Town, he encounters many problems.
The author has done an excellent job of developing realistic, sympathetic characters who grow in depth and wisdom as the story unfolds. When the hero, Roger, arrives in the Upper Peninsula, he is determined to avoid being sent back to Detroit and tells many lies to ensure that won’t happen. In the process of establishing himself among friends and relatives, he gains new insight into why people act the way they do, and how to cope with those who are difficult.
Roger’s character growth is primarily nurtured by his father’s cousin, Leo, who along with his wife, Faye, agrees to take Roger in. Leo is the mentor any young boy would want, full of wisdom, insight, and genuine warmth. But Leo also needs to grow, and the author weaves that into the story as well.
Leo’s wife, Faye, becomes upset by the least little thing, and constantly threatens to return Roger to his parents. Her expectations are high, even unrealistic at times, but gradually moderate as the story unfolds.
Every story needs an antihero, and the bully, Joe, fills that role without being too predictable or formulaic. The more Roger learns about Joe, the better equipped he is to respond to Joe’s threats.
Jake, an alcoholic whom Roger meets early in his adventure, needs the biggest turnaround. I didn’t think it could be accomplished credibly, but Curtis, a genius storyteller, found a way, and in so doing provided tremendous reader satisfaction.
And then there’s Susan, the girl Roger has been sweet on since his previous visit to the Upper Peninsula. The author combines warmth, whim, and parental difficulties to create the perfect, seemingly unattainable, challenge for her suitor.
Character development is not this author’s only strength. Plot twists and turns keep the reader guessing, turning pages, and wishing the story wouldn’t end. I hope a sequel is in the works because readers will surely want it.
Another wonderful element in this story is the descriptions. They incorporate the setting and culture with just the right words. Here’s one that caught my attention:
“Two car doors slammed, like the first shot of a deer rifle had missed its mark.”
Later, a great depiction grows from a dinner served at the home of relatives.
Father and son lashed out with forks and spoons, bringing food onto their plates with the speed of xylophone players striking bars with mallets. As silverware hit bowls, platters and plates, musical notes rang similar to the beginning notes of Yankee Doodle Dandy.
Roger’s bedroom at Leo and Faye’s, originally decorated in a feminine theme, underwent a transformation that would be the envy of any thirteen-year-old whose ancestors were miners.
They entered his bedroom, where the pillowcases were now white instead of pink, and a new comforter without lace was on the bed. A plain wood dresser was in place of the white and pink one. The paintings of flowers were gone, and on the wall instead were two framed photographs of men in old-fashioned clothes. Replacing the china cups on the shelf was a piece of copper two inches across. A pail was atop the dresser, a hat with attached candle was on an end-table, a slick gray raincoat was hanging from a coat-tree and beneath it on the floor were high rubber boots.
Without giving too much away, I’ll reveal Roger’s greatest takeaway from association with his relatives, a learning point that would serve anyone well.
…waiting for the right time to say the right thing in the right way was truly the way it was supposed to be done.
Grab a copy of this book, read it yourself, then pass it on to a youngster who will surely become immersed in the wonderful adventure of Roger Tucker as he seeks A Second Home.
Published by: David Curtis
Pub. Date: 08/2021