About the Book
In the summer of 1962, ten year-old Cassandra Parsons has her life all figured out. She lives with her father and mother in the upstairs flat of a well-appointed two family house, in a pleasant neighborhood of Racine, Wisconsin. Her maternal aunt and grandfather live right downstairs, and her best friend Kitty has always lived two doors down. These facts of life seem as immutable as the tat-tat-tat of her grandfather’s clock, steadfastly keeping time on the mantle while they play their Sunday after-church game of dominoes.
Cassandra’s well-ordered world comes undone when she moves with her parents to the backwoods of Northern Wisconsin, to renovate and manage her grandfather’s hunting lodge. Isolated and friendless, she is left to her own devises as her parents plunge themselves into their new business endeavor. Loneliness and self-pity gradually give way as she learns to appreciate the beauty of nature and the peace of quietude. Soon she meets a half-Ojibwa Indian girl named Sparrow who lives in dire rural poverty. They become fast friends and have a final fling with childhood, spending their last carefree days fishing in the river and roaming the woods, pretending to be ancient Ojibwa, and forging a bond that hopefully holds them through even the darkest of times.
Florida Book Award
“Ms. Rose writes coming of age stories as well as anybody within the genre. Her ability to bring characters to life is an admirable skill, to be sure. However, it is her rare gift of moving readers to actually care for her characters that sets her stories apart from other writers working in the coming-of-age genre.”–Review, Koobugs
WE’D BEEN DRIVING since the gray of predawn. I lay curled up in the far backseat of our old station wagon with a tatty Indian blanket over my head and cried on and off—whimpered’s more like it—quiet as a mouse ’til my stomach hurt. Somewhere west of Milwaukee, I was lulled into an uneasy sleep by the incessant drone of the tires beneath my head and didn’t wake up until we were on Route 39, well north of Madison.
I was exhausted. I’d hardly closed my eyes the night before and when I finally did, it was time to get out of bed again. My father insisted we hit the road early to beat the rush hour traffic around the cities. My mother didn’t understand why we couldn’t just wait until rush hour was over, say, late morning after a nice breakfast, but he said no; he was in a hurry to get going. Seemed like he was in a hurry to change just about everything lately.
We were heading up to his father’s old homestead, the place he was born and raised, and when I say up, I mean way up in the Northwoods of Wisconsin—home to bears, moose, and mosquitos the size of bats! The twenty-acre patch in the pines lay along the banks of the Stony River, just beyond the boundary of an Ojibwe Indian reservation of the same name. The tiny town of Blackstone is the closest thing to civilization. It’s a couple hours’ drive east of Duluth, Minnesota, and closer to Winnipeg than to any major city in Wisconsin. Only thing that mattered to me was that it was hopelessly far from my home in Racine.
Grandpa called his place Parsons’ Lodge because long ago he’d put up a few plywood shacks and built a rough camp for hunters and fisherman; calling it a lodge was a bit of a stretch. My parents had taken me to visit four years earlier when I was six years old. I recalled that Grandpa Reuben wasn’t very friendly and hardly what you’d call industrious. The lodge wasn’t much to look at, but over the last four years, the place had by all accounts fallen into complete dilapidation and disuse. Grandpa needed help, and my father intended to fix it up.
If that’s all there was to it I’d have been obliged to go along, even if I did get dragged out of bed at five o’clock in the morning. I certainly wouldn’t have been blubbering under a blanket like a big selfish baby. But there was a lot more to it.
My father had left his longtime job selling insurance to go into business as the new proprietor of Parsons’ Lodge; he was moving us to Blackstone for good. In other words, he’d torn up my life by the roots and tossed it aside like a fistful of weeds
It was dark and eerily quiet when we pulled out of the driveway and rolled down Elmwood Lane. Still, my father kept the headlights off to avoid drawing the attention of nosy neighbors who might be awake—said our doings were nobody’s business. Somehow, it felt like we were fleeing the scene of a crime. Just before I ducked my head under the blanket, I stole one last look at our home through the rear window, but all I saw was a black, empty shell with no curtains and no lights.