Fun Read for Many Ages

Drift House The First Voyage
by Dale Peck


Really cool unexpected fantasy with a touch of science theory and real thought, everything from theories about time to mermaids and pirates, but none of it seems pedantic or too frothy or frivolous, either.

Set in 2001, not long after the September 11th bombings, the three Oakenfield children, Susan – the eldest, and her younger step brothers Charles and Murray are sent by their parents from New York to their uncle’s place in Canada. Real city kids, used to the congested but busy life in New York City, they are not sure really why they are being sent away, but their parents inssist it’s for their safety. The kids, though Susan had a different biological father, are typical siblings, and have their squabbles and tease each other, more Susan – born in England – and Charles, the next youngest, than Murray, who is only five years old.

Nothing is quite what it seems, aand it’s kind of refreshing that these are no Disneyland mermaids, and even the sea they are “adrift’ on is no ordinary see. It’s also cool that the kids do not automatically come together as the adventure begins, but continue their evolving relationships at what feels like an ordinary pace in extraordinary circumstances.

I highly reccomend this book to anyone age 8 to 800 who enjoys a good story, and doesn’t mind thinking about things a little as they go. It’s not too simple for adults, and it isn’t little with sly pop culture references to keep adults interested, either, it’s fine as is. And I am not even terribly bothered by the “sequel alert” subtitle of “The First Voyage” as this stands on its own, without the annoying “see what happens next” of some book series.

Back to Book Reviews

It isn’t that I’ve not been reading books all this time, just that I haven’t been good about reviewing them. But certain circumstances meant we moved a bunch of boxes in March, and more books to rediscover, of course. But the next review will be for a book purchased in Denmark, read by a friend from Pet Talk there, and sent to me to pass along. That’ll be up soon, I promise!

Good Boston Story

Run by Ann Patchett

Excellent book, set in nearby Boston, and aside from one instance of Mount Auburn Street being called Mount Auburn Drive, it’s accurate in descriptions of places, names and neighborhoods. The heart of story takes place over just a 24-hour span, though there are years of history in the making of that day. It is set around the story of two broken families, one rich, and one poor, and how their lives suddenly intersect.

The first of the families, the wealthier one, consists of a father, a Boston politician, and a good Irish Catholic man. His wife, Bernadette, was from one of those large, sprawling Irish-Catholic families for which Boston is known, and the story begins with her tale of the statue of the Virgin Mary that she was given by her mother, which has been passed, mother to daughter, for generations. She and Bernard has always planned on a big family, but after their first boy, Sullivan, she was not able to carry another baby full term. Determined, they started the process of adoption, and ended up, eventually with not one baby, but his 18-month-old brother as well. That they were African-American did not matter to the Doyles, and Tip and Teddy were instantly loved. Sadly, Bernadette was only able to enjoy her family for four years, before getting diagnosed with and succumbing to cancer. The story takes place 20 years later, when the “little boys” are grown, and college students at Harvard and Northeastern, respectively.

The second family is even smaller, just a devoted, some would say overprotective single mother, Tennessee and her daughter, Kenya. They are also black, and live in just down the street from the Doyles, but across the line into Roxbury, in one of “the Projects.” Kenya, who is eleven, cares only about running, and learning well in school to please her mother. The families lives intersect when Teddy, whose forte in life is memorizing political speeches but who has little direction in life, and Tip, the “serious” one who wants to be an ichthyologist, accompany their father, and Kenya goes with her mother, to a Jesse Jackson speech being given at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

The night turns into a snowy one – as anyone who has lived here knows can happen, especially in January in Boston, and as everyone leaves the lecture, the accident happens, and the two families meet and lives are intertwined in tragic, joyful and unexpected ways.

An excellent book, and a quick, absorbing read, I heartily recommend it. Unless it happens to be January, and you’re enduring your first New England winter … And if you happen to enjoy running, politics, or biology – especially of the fishie sort, you’ll likely enjoy it even more.