When retired police officer Kurt Doyle snatches Rob before he jumps to his death, the bonding of the lost boy to something positive begins. It is the first time Rob's been made to feel valued - the downgradings from his father during drunken stupors certainly never gave him any support.
As Doyle and Rob begin to patch their lives together, their characters are outlined in flashbacks, conversations and reticent actions that disclose why they are cautious, both like animals ready to spring.In this fast-paced novel Wartski has woven a compassionate story of a young man who is vulnerable and hurt, injured by a society that too often leaves victims lonely and homeless. When Rob is placed in Kurt's care as a ward of the court, the two find a rocky journey, the pitfalls many, the reversals evident.
The setting - the seacoast - becomes an integral antagonist that nearly claims both their lives. In their struggles to become master over the water they find insight into their own weaknesses and strengths, which ultimately leaves them open to accept each other.
Wartski's books are typically a balance of conflict and harmony. In each she tells about the human condition, the conflicts and the resolution to find inner strength. "A Long Way from Home" and "A Boat to Nowhere" are stories to find a haven of safety. Both have been named Notable Books in the Field of Social Studies.
"My Name Is Nobody" should also be received with honest approval. The beginning sentence, "I couldn't see the ground. . . . I took a step forward. `Hey - lookit, a jumper on the roof!' " to the conclusion, ". . . the worried look went away . . . his hand squeezed mine. A promise. . ." serve as bookends to a narrative of life and death that will appeal to the young adult reader.
HER OWN SONG; By Ellen Howard; Atheneum/A Jean Karl Book New York; 1988; 160 pages; $12.95.
"She felt so lonely. Was it simply the fact that she was adopted...or something to do with the dreams she had...Like the way the Chinese girl's eyes made herfeel...the picture that came to her head when she saw the long pigtail..."
Mellie was not supposed to associate with the Chinese laundryman. But when she needed a confidant, Geem-Way was there to help, to protect and finally to explain the mysterious dreams.
Mellie had been an orphan, and her early years - years she couldn't recall - were spent with a Chinese family. Even though she had only faint recollections of being adopted by a white family, the baby-impressions were strong, still influencing.
"Her Own Song" is an interesting story exploring racial prejudice and familial love during a one-year period in the early 1900s. The novel, based on a true incident, is a social statement about a time when clear definition of roles was apparent: women, ethnic groups, neighborhoods, and blue-collar working folks all knew the perimeter of interchange. That alone makes this an important story.
But the dialogue is a strong element that moves the plot, allowing each character to develop through internal perceptions, dreams and pithy conversations. The use of Chinese dialect is done with subtlety, and when it is removed the disclosure of another layer of the Chinese culture is exposed: :'What happened to your accent...? You mean that Chink-talk is just put on?' The Chinese man bowed his head, and Mellie was sure now he was hiding a smile. 'It is expected.'"
The resolution of white parents attending a graveyard picnic, Chinese-style (the feast of Pure Brightness), is a tour de force. Mellie, who has had two sets of adopted parents, will be able to combine them both in an enriched life. Good story!