A young Native American boy is in a life changing accident on his reservation when his head is run over by a mail truck. We follow Edgar through his recovery and subsequent schooling at a Native American boarding school for orphans, as he is abandoned by his alcoholic mother and there is no one to raise him. We continue to follow his story as he hopes to fit in with a potential adoptive Mormon family.
He grows up fast, yet slightly stunted at the same time. He has to learn for himself what is right and wrong, often through the people around him. Through circumstance, Edgar is forced to make hard decisions at a young age and live with the consequences. Should he break the rules to fit in at school? Should he become Mormon to save himself? The way this book is written, especially how it switches between first and third person creates an empathy for Edgar. There is frustration with Edgar as we watch him struggle with his emotions and we question how he handles certain situations. The reader has many concerns for the main character but Udall addresses our concerns as the book goes on.
There are a variety of characters and Edgar is often unsure about whether he likes them or not. He wants to see the good in people, but has trouble doing so. Barry, the doctor who saved his life in the ER when he was rushed in after the accident, has trouble letting go of the boy he saved after he no longer works for the hospital. We see Edgar struggle with Barry’s behavior as his life starts to unwind. Edgar doesn’t know what to think of many of the people he encounters, so he often disengages and lets things run their course. He does finally take charge and makes the decision to find the mailman who ran him over in order to forgive him, and the reader is treated to the outcome of that decision. Edgar is around many men in this book, but he does not seems to seek a paternal role in them. While he does not mourn the loss of his alcoholic mother, motherhood is an important subject as we see Edgar raised without that role in his life. The book begins and ends with the subject of mothers, wonderfully book-ending the novel.
TL:DR We follow Edgar as he finds his way through life after an nearly fatal accident and being abandoned by his mother. He learns from his mistakes, as long as that may take, and finds his place in life. Edgar’s story is saddening and comical as we watch him try to figure things out. From Brady Udall, this is a coming of age story under extraordinary circumstances that you can’t wait to finish.
Reviewed by Katie Holland who is a Chicago based artist, creative mind and bookworm.
Publication Date: June 2001 Page Count: 432
ISBN: 978-0-393-02036-6 Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company