Middle of Nowhere
by Adderson, Caroline

When his mother doesn't come home from her work shift, Curtis does what he can to take care of himself and his five-year-old brother while trying to hide her absence from his teachers so that they don't have to go back to a foster home.

Caroline Adderson is the author of several award-winning books. Her works of adult fiction have been nominated for the Governor General&;s Award, the Rogers Writers&; Trust Fiction Prize, the Giller Prize, and the Commonwealth Writers&; Prize. She is a three-time CBC Literary Award winner, two-time winner of the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, and recipient of the 2006 Marian Engel Award for her body of work. Her children&;s books include I, Bruno, nominated for the Chocolate Lily and Shining Willow book awards, Very Serious Children, winner of the Diamond Willow Award and shortlisted for the Rocky Mountain Book Award, and Jasper John Dooley. She is also the author of the picture book Norman, Speak!, forthcoming, which won the Helen Isobel Sissons Canadian Children's Story Award. She lives in Vancouver.

Adderson takes on the unsettling viewpoint of a sixth-grade boy who, along with his six-year-old brother, has apparently been abandoned by his mother. The boys' circumstances are dire: little food, little money, and one adult's call away from being taken (again) into protective custody. An elderly neighbor comes to the rescue, but it turns out Mrs. Burt has additional motives for helping them, having to do with her own unresolved parenting issues. Curtis, the book's narrator, may come off as surprisingly self-possessed for someone who lacks a sense of security, but he, his brother, and Mrs. Burt are not only sympathetic but compelling. The trio finds adventure when they escape to Mrs. Burt's old cabin in the woods, and all three find satisfaction and solace there in the "middle of nowhere." Although darkness runs through the novel, so do themes of forgiveness, respect, and familial attachments. The story ties up a bit neatly, but few readers would deny these characters their moments of peace. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

A mother who disappears, two brothers left alone and a seemingly kindly neighbor make up the ingredients of this unsuccessful story about troubled families. Eleven-year-old Curtis has always helped care for his little brother while their mother works and attends school. Now she has not come home, rent is due and food is running out. Haunted by memories of a horrible foster-care family with whom he stayed the first time his mother left him, Curtis fears that he will be separated from his little brother. Then strange but kindly Mrs. Burt, who lives across the street, offers money and meals. When she takes them to a remote lakeside cabin in British Columbia for the summer, Curtis is slowly drawn into this brave new world of chopping wood, building an outhouse and fishing. In truth, Mrs. Burt has "absconded" with the children because she mourns her son who drowned in the lake 40 years ago. Curtis' mother has not run off but has been badly injured and is lying in a coma. In a few pages of the finale, the narrative flow abruptly wraps up, leaving too many loose ends and unanswered questions. Curtis' first-person narration necessarily limits readers' access to the puzzle, and his easy acceptance of the big reveal strains credulity. The elements of a good story are present, but its telling lacks resonance, character development and depth of understanding. (Fiction. 8-12) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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