“Henry Smith’s father told him that if you build your house far enough away from Trouble, then Trouble will never find you.”
But Trouble comes careening down the road one night in the form of a pickup truck that strikes Henry’s older brother, Franklin. In the truck is Chay Chouan, a young Cambodian from Franklin’s preparatory school, and the accident sparks racial tensions in the school—and in the well-established town where Henry’s family has lived for generations. Caught between anger and grief, Henry sets out to do the only thing he can think of: climb Mt. Katahdin, the highest mountain in Maine, which he and Franklin were going to climb together. Along with Black Dog, whom Henry has rescued from drowning, and a friend, Henry leaves without his parents’ knowledge. The journey, both exhilarating and dangerous, turns into an odyssey of discovery about himself, his older sister, Louisa, his ancestry, and why one can never escape from Trouble.
Tautly constructed, metaphorically rich, emotionally gripping and seductively told,Schmidt's (The Wednesday Wars) novel opens in the 300-year-old ancestral home of Henry Smith, whose father has raised him to believe that "if you build your house far enough away from Trouble, then Trouble will never find you." With such an opening, it is inevitable that Trouble does find the aristocratic Smiths: Henry's older brother, Franklin, is critically injured by a truck. A Cambodian refugee named Chay, who attends the same school as Franklin, acknowledges responsibility, but over the course of Chay's trial it occurs, to Henry at least, that it was Franklin who sought Trouble: the racism he directed toward Chay specifically and Cambodian immigrants generally has been so widely shared in the community that no one challenged it. Twin sequences of events plunge the Smiths and Chay into further tragedy, also revealing the ravages of Chay's childhood under the Khmer Rouge. At the same time, a storm exposes a charred slave ship long buried on the Smiths' private beach: it emerges that their house has been close to Trouble all along. For all the fine crafting, the novel takes a disturbingly broad-brush approach to racism. Characters are either thuggish or willfully blind or saintly, easily pegged on a moral scale and therefore untrue to life. Ages 12-up.
A well written tale
"The world is trouble... and Grace..." A well written tale that grapples with many common troubles but avoids cliches and over simplified conclusions. Enjoy the tale and stop often to reflect on what you read. A more recent story by this author, Okay For Now, benefits from the author's talents that are seen being refined in this tale.
This is probably the best book I have ever read. It has a surprise ending and an also sad ending.