Cockerings by Stevyn Colgan – Pushing the boundaries of rural mayhem in a surreal comedy

Cockerings by Stevyn Colgan

It’s surreal, it’s funny, and essentially it’s a good natured comedy. Stevyn Colgan has created a village – actually a county – and peopled it with remarkable characters. In this adventure he has inserted a circus, an old fashioned Big Top affair that still has animal acts, and accordingly protestors at every performance. Not that every performance runs smoothly, as antique circus equipment is being used by even more antique performers. There are only a few of the circus folk who are under pension age, and most have long since descended into drunken haze of near confusion. Even the animals have descended into a state of aged inactivity, except possibly Della whose tendency to expel bodily fluids and traverse vast distances when frightened is a definite disadvantage. Presiding over this disreputable enterprise is the much younger Ben Ellis, trapped by inheritance and fortune into maintaining a circus into the twenty first century

The reason for the circus turning up at Brill Farm is the bright idea of the Lord Berkeley Cockering, a Viscount whose elder sister, Marcheline, runs the Cockering estate with frightening efficiency. Marcheline is under no illusion about her younger sibling; she knows that his feckless ambitions to be an idle playboy will mean the end of the family’s wealth and position. He therefore has the title and a generous allowance, she holds all the financial control. Their ongoing disagreements are at the heart of this very funny novel, full of subtle (and not so subtle) puns and extended jokes as many of the characters try to live amidst barely contained rural chaos. Sometimes surprisingly frank, this is not a book for the easily shocked, but is definitely entertaining in so many ways. This is a memorable book to have the opportunity of reading and reviewing!

The characters in this book are what really make it work as they try to cope with the rising chaos around them. Colgan was a police officer, but I assume not like the two featured in this book. Special Constable Arthur Pews is renowned for his extended enquires conducted with the help of recently widowed Mrs Beryl Tiggs. The other officer who features is Detective Sergeant Brian Blount, who “was a bitter man”. Demoted as a result of a previous case, he soon becomes obsessed about the circus generally and Ben Ellis particularly, mounting a campaign that is remarkable for its persistence. Not that he is the only character who decides to take decisive action; the county and village is not quite ready for the decisive action taken by many of the main characters which has remarkable results.

This is a comedy which takes most things to extremes in every sense. Colgan is a very funny writer with a fine taste for the surreal and even the shocking. I found this a surprising and enjoyable book which contrasts the idea of a seemingly perfect village with the undercurrents of what is really happening. From the first pile up at the level crossing through the conflict between to aristocrats, this is a novel to savour for its silliness as well as its memorable characters. Perhaps it is British comedy, perhaps it is pushing the boundaries, but there is nothing held back in this book of rural mayhem, ambition and sheer ineptitude which makes for an entertaining and extraordinary read.        

A Bookshop Tour on Four Wheels Number Three – The Bound Bookshop, Whitley Bay

A Bookshop Tour on Four Wheels – The Bound, Whitley Bay

On my tour of accessible bookshops of the UK,  this time I feature a new shop on the coast in the seaside town of Whitley Bay, in North Tyneside, home of Spanish City and an increasing number of gift shops that are eager to welcome visitors. Established in conjunction with Forum Bookshop (see my previous post in this series) the friendly welcoming staff are determined to make it accessible to all, and have been successful. The doorway is wide and there is no step, in fact it is a completely flat entrance. Virtually everything inside is accessible, with many books being face out. The staff are extremely friendly and helpful, and will order books to be sent to your home address with little fuss. Four legged friends are also welcome, with a dog bowl being available. 

There is a good range of books to be found here, and they are enthusiastically arranging events with supporters such as Ann Cleeves of Vera fame (the town has appeared in at least one episode of the television series). This is a bookshop that will no doubt go from strength to strength – it certainly deserves to succeed!

  • the bound

Independent bookshop , open 7 days a week

Mon-Sat 10-5     Sun 11-4               Independent bookshop , open 7 days a week Address        82A Park View                         Contact     01914221017    

Hours      Monday – Saturday 10.00 – 5.00        Sunday 11.00 – 4.00


Let That Be a Lesson by Ryan Wilson – a very enjoyable “Teacher’s Life in the Classroom”

Let That Be a Lesson

Let That Be a Lesson by Ryan Wilson

The subtitle of this book is direct – “A Teacher’s Life in the Classroom” and correct; it is a lovely, funny and sometimes moving book of what it actually like teaching in the classroom to a variety of young people at secondary schools. The chief subject tackled is English, which leaves vast amounts of possible stories of misunderstanding of texts, and also exasperation at certain works being censored.

The author shares tales from the classroom which begin with his training year the Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) which places eager graduates in classrooms with a reasonable knowledge of their subject and little idea of how to convey it for the first time. It can be traumatic, it can show what is to come, and sometimes it is rewarding as the trainee teacher gets an idea of what teaching a “good” lesson feels like. Wilson is honest, admits to what he has found difficult, even failed at, but also the highs of making a real difference in a what a child learns, even perhaps influencing a life. He makes the point that it is not only difficult teaching in an area of deprivation, but that even a seemingly non threatening class can be uncooperative and constructively difficult, especially to young teachers. Having worked as a supply teacher myself for a number of years in a variety of schools I was very keen to read this book, which depicts faithfully the combination of internal politics, sheer hard work and sometimes desperation that can fill the days and nights of a teacher. I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read this book, which also includes the often humourous and enjoyable aspects of teaching.

The strength of this book is in its stories from the classroom which reflect the combination of difficulties of creating engagement in a positive way, while also dealing with the individual student. It does not go down the route of cute sayings and mistakes like some writers offer in their books, but does tell of the awkward moments, innocent misunderstandings and humour of trying to get a message across. There is a particular memory of two teachers asking questions in exam circumstances and having to fight convulsive giggles at the name of one of the characters. Wilson also pays tribute to two women teachers who have real skill, dedication, and ability to teach, deal with difficulties and be supportive of colleagues even in challenging circumstances.

Wilson has given a great deal of thought to his experiences. He succeeds in his training year, he gets a full-time job, and takes on his own class as a tutor as well as teaching through the age range. The internal politics of the school are treated positively; it is not only students who can play tricks on others! There are challenges, short term panics and longer concerns, but Wilson is a quick learner who adapts, uses the good ideas of colleagues and is genuinely keen to make sure that every student gets the best chance to do well. His exasperation as he moves schools and becomes exposed to the external forces that affect schools – the unilateral censorship of texts, the last-minute changes to exam marking, the withdrawal of financial support for the basics of educational and pastoral needs – is expressed and justified. A certain politician comes in for particular criticism as he forces through policies which are wholly unrelated to actual teaching and have a detrimental effect on children and teachers.

This is an honest, well written and generally positive of view of what being an actual teacher in a classroom is like, and how planning, marking and dealing with the pointless bureaucracy of teaching in the twenty first century can be a brutal distraction from actually teaching people in a classroom. It does not cover the chaos of the covid arrangements over the last year or so, but it does acknowledge the reactive nature of educational policy which can move the goal posts so disastrously. This is an excellent read for teachers who will probably sigh with recognition, for those who enjoy well written memoirs of teaching, and for everyone who has ever been in a classroom.   

Loved and Missed by Susie Boyt – a novel of love, thought and the power of female relationships

Loved and Missed by Susie Boyt

This is a book of painful beauty. At its heart it is the story of an incredible baby, girl, young woman, Lily, who is brought up by a grandmother, while coping with her near ghost of a mother, Eleanor. Ruth narrates a story of love as expressed through a thoughtful, always hopeful woman who takes the only action that she felt that she could to save a baby who “cried for something no one could give her”. In doing so she risks everything, including her daughter Eleanor whose lifestyle of addiction means that she is basically lost. Ruth’s relationship with the exception Lily reflects so much about her own life, her feelings about being brought up by her own mother, her sadness about her bright, intelligent daughter who cannot be predicted.

Despite, or maybe because of its unrelenting urban setting of flats in dubious areas, the writing of place has an intensely lyrical quality of genuine love for the unaccountable pieces of life. There is a sad humour of appreciating the challenging nature of teaching teenage girls, for the little acts of love that can transform a day, for the love of a child. At first I thought that this book would be a tough read, and at times it is challenging, but the love that Ruth has for Lily, and even the elusive Eleanor is so beautifully expressed that I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this very special book.

The book begins with Ruth hosting an evening in her flat for “ghosts”, three women who she had grown up with, who she still partly thinks of as “the girls”. A mutual acquaintance “had this startling way of making you less uninteresting to yourself”, and that is the sort of writing that reveals people in all their negatives, but also the positive aspects that can redeem them despite everything. As a member of the group reveals that she has seen Eleanor, shown her generosity and respect, Ruth cries, but is cheered by her friends and the appearance of the infant Lily, as sensitive as ever to feelings, atmosphere and more. A memory of a Christmas day, of an attempt to celebrate with Eleanor “like a lot of young girls intent on cancelling themselves” and her boyfriend Ben shows how desperately Ruth tried, tries, to remain in contact with her daughter. A carefully prepared meal in a park recognizes that she knew that the young couple would not be tied down to even eating indoors, let alone celebrate the season in a traditional way. When Eleanor reveals that she is expecting a baby girl, Ruth can only begin to think about the implications of that for a young woman who struggles to look after herself in any recognizable way. The action that Ruth takes reflects her fear of neglect, as she recognizes that her daughter neglects her. Her impressive friend Jean, another determined teacher, warns her of the desperate lengths that people go to in such circumstances, and Ruth’s actions are always conditional, thoughtful and imaginative in relation to a daughter who appears and disappears like a dream.

The quality of the writing in this short novel is stunning, full of the beauty of women, girls, who want to make a difference, express the love that they feel “I breathed my love onto Lily. What we felt for each other had a lot of heat and urgency”. This book is so beautifully written that every page contains a quotation of the power of love. It is also a powerful testament of female friendships, female relationships. As Ruth and Jean seek to not just teach but prepare girls for life, they live out what they say, supporting each other in inventive and courageous ways. There is suffering in this novel, it is scaffolded in challenges, but there is also love, love of different types, expressed in many ways, powerful and life changing. I recommend this book as offering a reading experience of real lyrical and vivid beauty.  

Oxford Blues by Andy Griffee – a University city is the site of Jack Johnson’s latest adventure

Oxford Blues by Andy Griffee

Narrowboat life can have its moments, and for Jack Johnson life can be more exciting than most. In this third book in the series he runs into all sorts of problems both off and on his boat, the “Jumping Jack Flash” when he moves from Bath to Oxford. His decision to move has a lot to do with Nina who has moved to the University city to spend time with her niece Anna. Although this is the third book featuring Jack and Nina, I firmly believe this can be read as a standalone mystery and really enjoyable novel, though of course it will encourage readers to think about reading the other two adventures. I found this book so readable and well written that I would recommend it to anyone.

The characters of Jack and Nina, and of course Eddie the dog, are well established. Nina is a young soldier’s widow, who has spent time with Jack on the boat, but who is reluctant to make any sort of commitment. Jack’s affections for Nina are an ongoing theme in the book, but other situations, often dangerous, seem to get in the way. This is a vivid and sometimes touching book which I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review. 

The book opens with the discovery by two magnet users of a body at a weir which marks the meeting place of the Thames and Isis. It appears to be the body of a young woman, but she is not immediately recognisable. Jack then takes up the story of how he has moved the boat single handed from Bath to Oxford, despite the poor weather. He is delighted to see Nina and Anna waiting for him in the approach to Oxford, and to hear how Anna has coped with family tragedy and her first term as an undergraduate. Nina says she has found a place to stay, so is not going to be on her niece’s case all the time. Jack records that it is an ironic statement given what happens. He also knows that he will have to look for work as a journalist soon. The assignments he does eventually find will take him into the heart of some strange events.

As with the other novels, the focus then moves from Jack to describe someone whose motives are far from innocent. Finn Connolly is an ex cage fighter, who now keeps fit and runs dubious business ventures, which include picking up school age girls from downmarket estates to distribute drugs. Jack then meets a very different character in the form of Caleb Hopper, a wealthy and extremely good looking American postgraduate student who is training to row in the University boat. As a tragic discovery is made, Jack’s investigations aided and abetted by new acquaintances and Nina and Anna place several people in active danger as crime and danger collide.

This is a totally engaging book which is difficult to put down. Jack, Nina and other characters have real depth, especially as Jack records their reactions to his unorthodox investigations. Being a “liveaboard” means that each new mooring has its challenges, and a new cast of neighbours who get involved in Jack’s escapades in one form or another. There are moments of real tension in this novel, as well as humour, especially in the lively dialogue. I really enjoyed this book, a sparkling crime, thriller, mystery novel with real depth and a sharp insight into contemporary life.  I cannot wait for more adventures from this extremely talented author.    

Work in Progress by Dan Brotzel, Martin Jenkins and Alex Woolf – a story told in emails of a writing group at work

Work in Progress by Dan Brotzel, Martin Jenkins & Alex Woolf

This is a very funny, clever and unusual book. Told in an erratic collection of emails between eight members of a writing group, it exposes their personalities, lives and obsessions with graphic thoroughness as they offer up everything from mundane group matters to personal revelations. It also demonstrates the reality of life for aspiring writers, from the prolific self published to the woman struggling with her first sentence. It has much to say about friendship, lifestyles and the basic choice to write. Ranging from the writer of a contemporary scandal novel through angst ridden poetry to a writer of voluminous fantasy, the emails are written in haste, at leisure, and are sometimes misdirected. There are never descriptions of the actual meetings as such, just reactions to what happens from various group members. This is particularly memorable in the case of the actions of one writer who has aspirations to be a performance artist, and whose antics are certainly memorable.

This is an enjoyable book which I read very rapidly as it flows well over a period of nine months from December 2016 when Julia, actress, advertises for members of a group to meet in various houses, from the first responses each person reveals something of their character. It is such a cleverly written novel in which the three authors have produced consistent and very different characters who function well throughout the book.  I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this very different sort of fictional book which carries some well observed insights. 

The title, Work in Progress, refers to the various pieces of work that the writers have all embarked on as the group is established. In their emails each writer gives some detail of what they are working on.  Keith produces realms of fantasy which he has been self publishing for some time. It is very complex, involving many characters, strange situations and even made up languages. He writes so much so fast that he is the despair of Alice, who is in a permanent state of uncertainty about the first sentence of her novel. Tom has a secret which goes beyond his romantic ambitions. Peter’s search for conceptual art projects lends a certain element to the meetings. Jon has suspicions of unexplained forces, but at least he turns up to meetings, which is more than Mavinder does. Blue’s poetry is angst filled, in contrast to Julia’s rather steamy novel which seems to be creating some interest beyond the group.

As meetings get more dramatic and frankly strange, this funny and exciting book provides enormous entertainment from its characters with their idiosyncrasies and strange activities. As the book progresses, situations get more convoluted, and deeply strange things happen. The activities that the members get up to in between meetings are truly remarkable, reported on as they are in emails which reveal tantalising details. Not that the meetings themselves are dull affairs; as each person reports on them from their own viewpoints they seem the most entertaining affairs as each member takes their turn to host and provide refreshments. This book will be of interest to those who have experience of writing groups as they recognise an exaggerated version of familiar events, and I think nearly everyone will enjoy it as an entertaining and very funny novel.     

A Bookshop Tour on Four Wheels – Forum Books in Corbridge

A Bookshop Tour on Four Wheels – The Forum Bookshop, Corbridge 

This is my second post in a series featuring bookshops that I have found to be accessible for myself and my trusty wheelchair, Morgan. When I first thought about compiling a list of accessible bookshops in the UK it was pointed out that accessibility was difficult to define, with different needs to consider. I can only say that these bookshops are those I have been able to get into using a wheelchair and to see a reasonable amount of stock. Those who have mobility issues, carers with pushchairs and others may well therefore be able to access these shops as well. 

I appreciate that there are buildings which cannot be adapted easily and of course there will be those who I cannot get to, or cannot research online. I am always open to suggestions in the comments, on “Contact Me” above, or on twitter (@NorthernReader) for other shops to investigate either in person or virtually – please let me have your ideas!

Today’s bookshop is “The Forum” in Corbridge in Northumberland.


Forum Books

The Chapel

Market Place



NE45 5AW

Those are the details, including the postcode for satnav followers! Their website is  which displays a fine list of current books and their opening times. 

I could remember going into the bookshop once or twice in its old site on the market place of Corbridge when we lived fairly locally. I was a bit confused when we returned a few weeks ago, and I asked for directions from tourists(!) to find their new home. I was a bit daunted when I discovered that they had moved into a chapel near the parish church which had a couple of exciting steps (with a sturdy handrail for those interested). I rang the bell, and a lovely member of staff appeared who insisted on putting a ramp down which she said they had researched and obtained for just this sort of event! Once in, I saw how they had worked really hard to make the most of the space allowing access. As some books were piled on pews (neatly!) I could see virtually everything on display and get around the shop easily. They have also preserved the pulpit which they can use as a stage for events. They had an excellent stock of both fiction and fiction, and the staff were friendly and helpful. Definitely on the list! 

The Beloved Girls by Harriet Evans – a memorable novel of the disturbed past and the unsettled present

The Beloved Girls by Harriet Evans

Who are the Beloved Girls? Why are they important to an old ceremony related to bees? What really happened to the Hunter family? There are so many questions which arise in this book as it progresses, at every turn the main characters are bewildered by what is happening, the presence or non-presence of people, the suspense and tension building. The atmosphere of the book is so well described that reading it has an effect on the senses; the sound of the bees, the sight of a coastal area in contrast with the streets and buildings of London. There are references to the smell “The smell of the sea and salt that reached out to us across the expanse of turf and meadow, the lightest, slightest wafts of it.”  The characters, Catherine or Kitty, Janey, Simon, Sylvia among others, are described in some detail; some give their own accounts of what happened, what they did, how they felt. This is a book with writing that goes beyond beautiful, mixing gentle, brutal, spanning life and death. I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this incredible book. 

The book begins with a Prologue set in October 1983, in which a twelve year old Janey visits Vanes with her father, shortly after her mother had walked out on them. Simon, her father, describes Vanes as “a funny old house”, where they hold a ceremony in a nearby semi- derelict chapel every year. She meets the almost childlike Sylvia, her brisk husband Charles and her children, the twins Joss and Kitty and “little Merry”. Janey’s time at Vanes is like a dream,with so much she doesn’t understand, but also so much which is bewitching and enchanting. The effects of the brief visit linger for the next five years as Janey says that every day she thinks of Kitty, every time she sees a dead bee. 

Part One is set in 2018 is written from the point of view of Catherine, now a successful barrister. She has children, Carys and Tom, and is married to Davide, but she begins her account with the phrase “When did it begin to fall apart?” She has a seemingly charmed life, she works hard, her husband loves her. Yet she is fragile in a way, a recent case of a schoolboy murder, seeming to see someone from her past, an unexplained disturbance in the house. A minor injury literally unbalances her, she begins to see her life differently. Even an upcoming anniversary seems troubling, despite her husband’s obvious love for her. Nothing is plain, everything is suggested, as she remembers what has happened in the past, and how that impacts on her present. Her life is well described, a world away from the Vanes, a world of paperwork, of legal matters, of a family completely separate from her childhood.It is a powerful contrast. The book goes on to look at other times, the visit of someone else to Vanes, a troubling time in so many ways. It seems the only way to cope with the present is to go back, to think of things that were thought to be over and long ago.

This is the sort of book that lingers in the memory long after it is finished. I enjoyed the atmosphere it created with its superb writing and carefully organised memories. This is a book which evokes strong emotions and tension with every character description. I strongly recommend this book for the beauty of its writing and the mastery of the characters. 

Clothes …and other things that matter by Alexandra Shulman – clothing and other choices through a life

Clothes… and things that matter by Alexandra Shulman

The clothes that we own can bring back memories of past events, times in our lives, places we wore them. When that includes handbags, underwear, shoes, hats and even jewellery, there are so many memories. In addition they may make us think of the bigger picture, what certain items symbolise in the fashion trends, the nature of society and women’s relationship with what they choose to wear. Not all of us are that interested, clothes do not dominate our lives, we may even struggle to remember certain items. That is not the case with the author of this book. She was the editor of  British Vogue for some years, and worked with the most significant designers in Britain and beyond. Her work with many people, including royalty, revolved around dressing for effect at many special and newsworthy events. 

In this book Shulman opens with a list of the contents of her wardrobe and cupboards. It is an extensive list, at least by my standards, which includes twenty-two coats, thirty-five dresses, and thirty-seven handbags. She then looks at some of the sections of clothes and items which dominate her thoughts. With the aid of specific memories of wearing clothes, the influences that made the style significant and well placed photographs, Shulman tells tales of clothes and more over her life time. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this special book.

The Preface acknowledges that the recent months have been very different in our relationship with clothes. Working from home, staying inside and the cancellation of events has led to a reduction in the number and variety of clothes that we have chosen. Throughout the book Shulman expands on how particular items of clothing had a significance at a specific time. I think it would be fair to say that she has enjoyed a privileged lifestyle living in an expensive part of London. An early chapter recalls how she would be taken to Harrods for her school shoes, which she then expands to a look at shoes generally, and how certain shoes have had psycological effect on the wearer. The red shoes of the chapter title are seen as an important lift to the spirits. A particular jumper, oversized and relaxing, brings back memories of a potentially dangerous situation for her teenage self. Her section on handbags is not only informative on how they became desirable and fashionable objects, but also how they represented the discovery of freedom for women from the home in past centuries. Her section on “Rags and Feathers” introduces the topic of second hand clothing, but does not really expand on how it is important to enviromental issues that clothing is worn and reworn, passed on and not carelessly disposed of, maybe even given a second life with a new owner. Having said that, she does suggest that many of her clothes have been worn a lot, sometimes beyond the particular time for which they were chosen. She does tend towards to name drop designers and celebrities that she has met in the course of her working and social life. She is honest about mistakes, and how she has bought clothes because of some unachievable concept of how they will make her feel and look. 

This is a wide ranging book which reveals much about the clothes that the author owns and remembers throughout her life. She is honest in that she is not a model, and that some clothes have not worked for her. She also notes that her relationships have not always been easy or happy, but that she has tried hard to fulfil expectations. This is a fascinating book in many ways, full of details of clothes, fashions, influences and social movements. Anyone who has ever looked at the clothes they have worn over the years and wondered why they were are popular will find much to interest them in this book.    

Gold Diggers by Sanjena Sathian – ambitions in a community with a secret element

Gold Diggers by Sanjena Sathian

Ambition and the desire for the American dream is at the heart of this unusual novel. In the suburbs where Indian families gather the gossip is about the successes of certain offspring at getting into prestigious universities and afterwards into lucrative jobs. Neil Narayan has different ambitions; he is obsessed with his neighbour Anita Dayal and would do anything to spend time with her. Not that it is impossible to do so given the welcome he has always had from her mother Anjali, whose excellent cooking he has always had access to via a hidden key. What he discovers one night will change his life forever, and make a difference to those around him.

This is a vivid picture of life at the end of the twentieth century for American immigrants from India. Their motive for sacrificing everything to bring their families to a new land is to advance them in every way. Of course daughters are not always seen as important as sons, but in Neil’s family his older sister  Prachi takes all the attention. This is a well written book which pushes boundaries in several ways, as an alchemical potion is at the heart of a book which is otherwise a very realistic portrait of the lives of young immigrants. Neil tells a story of hope and guilt, ambition and thwarted desire, all within the domestic setting of suburban life. The narrative from his point of view is one of opportunities that are difficult and a life full of challenges. There are so many layers to this novel which has real depth. I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this special novel. 

A Prologue features the young Anjali who is watching for her brother Vivek to return from his crammer school. Her mother is preparing something secret, something that will help her brother succeed. Anjali, being only a daughter, is excluded from the secret, for after all she must marry and that is not so difficult to achieve. As an adult, far away from her home, she tries to make a concoction of great significance. She knows that it is not quite right, and “The old recipes were never quite the same on this side of the world.” The main book starts with Neil’s realisation that his parents’ ambitions for him are the driving force in their lives. He, on the other hand, wants a date for the school party, the Spring Fling. As with many of these things, the teenage angst in the American function raises many sorts of temperatures. There is a division among the people at the party, with illicit activities including the loss of a bracelet. Anita has agreed to be his escort, but her prompt disappearance is only a foretaste of her successes in other fields which separates them. Desperate for a connection with her, he stumbles into the house late at night. He discovers a secret which involves the ambitions of others, and distills the essence of the restless ambitions of others in the community. 

This is a book of vivid images, disappointments and even tragedy. Neil’s progress, alongside that of others, becomes entwined with that of others, as he becomes aware of the problems of those around him. I enjoyed this book and its understanding of the emotions of young people. Two time periods are defined by secret events that have unusual effects, but it is also a story of very realistic young people. I recommend this story of American immigrants and the challenges they face both within and beyond their families.