Shortlisted for the Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize
In a small prairie town like Argue, Saskatchewan, everyone knows everybody else’s business. Everyone knows that the Loney family has been barely hanging on -- the father, George, reduced to drink and despair since the loss of his farm and the death of his wife, Margaret. That the four Loney children do not get along with George’s second wife, the pious, bitter Effie. Then George dies in a drunken stupor -- locked out, it seems, by Effie to freeze to death on his own doorstep. Effie takes off with a traveling Bible salesman, and it looks as though the children are done for. Who’s to save them when everyone is coping with their own problems -- the lingering depression and the loss of the town’s young men to the Second World War.
Yet somehow the children find a way, under the watchful eye of their ghostly parents and through the small kindnesses of a few neighbors, but mostly by dint of their own determination and ingenuity.
This is an extremely powerful novel about children at risk because of adult hypocrisy, indifference, self-interest and outright immorality, all cloaked in a self-righteous exterior. In the end they redeem their own lives by drawing good people to them and by rising to the occasion themselves. And when they at last are able to leave Argue, they do so together, as a family looking ahead to a future of promise and hope.