My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A slim but moving story about a rural family of ranchers and soldiers who are spiritually inclined – doesn’t exactly sound exciting, does it? But for readers who like stories with great characters and vivid settings, this is a treat. It’s also not a dull, actionless story. Sure, a big focus of the book is on Brother’s thoughts and feelings, as he stays home on the Eastern Oregon ranch with his grandparents, while his dad is in Iraq and his brothers are off at school. But the details about rural life and military families will make this appealing to kids interested in either of those topics, and it’s refreshing to see a story where the characters are actively religious in a non-didactic way.
You respect the way spirituality pervades their lives without the story becoming preachy. While I think that people who are Christian might find this aspect of the story more appealing than other groups, I would still recommend it to a young reader who isn’t Christian, or isn’t necessarily religious. A variety of faiths are represented, and if anything the message of the story is to support your community and your family through thick and thin. The ending is hopeful but not too neatly resolved.
One small quibble with the book – for a character-driven story, I just didn’t buy the mom’s story. Every time she was mentioned, and every time I thought of her role in Brother’s life, I was drawn out of the story because it just didn’t ring true, and felt like an awfully convenient way to get her out of the picture without killing her off.