Reviewed by De Gevallene, October 2021
Behind this young adult novel, before the story starts, there is a family event so terrible that the central character, Clayton, cannot let himself remember it. Looking forward, with drought ravaging the family farm, there is the possibility of ruin. All around there is the terrible silence of adults not coping. Young Clayton blames himself. Perhaps his parents blame him too.
It’s a dark place, but the author holds the reader’s hand and offers courage. No false promises : I honor the author for that. Young readers will be captivated by the fantasy components through which Clayton gropes his way forward – the carcase of a fox which comes to life as Clayton’s unreliable guide; a serpent in a basement who holds an unspeakable secret, a powerful demon who is holding back the rain. These figures are real in the story, and the parallel truths lurking behind them are never explicitly stated. An older teenager will find the hidden meanings; a younger one will not need to.
As an adult one sees in this story a traumatised young person reaching deep to find the symbols to understand what has happened and the resources to move on. This story explores difficult truths and trusts its readers to start in this dark place and make the journey. It is a story that fascinates and inspires in equal measure.