Lucas Painter is a teenager in the Vietnam era and his older brother Roy is off fighting in the war. His letters come back with many redactions, leaving Lucas very unsettled. His parents are continually fighting, and the loud arguments send Lucas out for solace. His best friend Connor struggles with the quiet in his home, along with the sheer emotional distance that has grown between his parents, spending much of each day alone in his room, resisting most invitations to leave the house.
So, to entertain himself, Lucas explores the undeveloped forest behind his neighborhood, following small trails that deer and other creatures have made to the nearby river. Then on one such day, Lucas stumbles across a cabin deep in the forest, complete with pick up truck parked nearby – and a doghouse. He then finds himself face to face with two large dogs, and he takes off running, with both dogs crashing behind him in pursuit. It’s not until he trips and falls that he realizes the dogs were enjoying the run, not chasing him down – and Lucas discovers a joy for running. It quickly becomes a daily routine. Until one morning he finds the dogs pacing and scratching at the door – and quickly discovers a woman lying in bed who doesn’t respond to his yells and banging…
Shortly thereafter, Lucas meets the woman he saved, Zoe Dinsmore, and learns of the tragedy that surrounds her, discovering that she perhaps didn’t want to be saved. An unlikely companionship ensues, one that they both seemingly need. Meanwhile, a gun has gone missing from Connors household, and no one knows where it’s gone. When Lucas inadvertently discovers the gun, hidden in a vent underneath Connor’s bed, he makes a split-second decision for better or worse, to introduce Connor to Zoe.
Meanwhile, Roy is sent home from Vietnam with a war injury, and an addiction to medications. A brooding version of his former self, he eventually allows Lucas to maneuver him into attending NA meetings, where eventually he shares his story and Lucas learns first-hand of the horrors his brother has been through. And another participant re-joins the group after a long absence, much to Lucas’s surprise.
A heartwarming, triumphant story of friendship, perseverance, wisdom & love. The ending was a bit bittersweet for me, but that just made it STAY with me all the longer. Definitely a must read….
I received this book as an Advance Reader Copy from Netgalley, in exchange for an objective review.