My book talks are coming at you from a librarian, not a reviewer. You won’t find me talking about style or craft, why I think this could’ve been better or what worked or didn’t work. I only do book talks on books I liked and want other people to know about. So if it’s here I probably think it won’t injure your brain if you read it.
Stan always assumed his “departed” father was dead, until a letter shows up at his house… one that his mom and Evil Granny (her percentage of evilness operates on a sliding scale) viciously guard. Times are tough in 1895 and the trio pull stakes to work in a lumber camp, mom and granny helping with meals, and Stan to hit himself in the head with axes, make up imaginary vile pasts for all of the lumberjacks courting his mom, and try to avoid all the diseases his (definitely evil) cousin Geri insists he has on a rotating basis.
Life as an almost-lumberjack is hard on eleven year old Stanley, so he imagines a life where his father writes him letters from his varied life as a cowboy/hero/outlaw, all of them painstakingly kept in Stanley’s scrapbook, featuring ads from the newspaper – augmented by Stanley’s own thoughts on the products and how the people in his life might benefit from them.
All Stan wants to do is prove to his mom that she doesn’t need a man in her life, because he already is one. The only way to do that is to participate on the river drive, a dangerous adventure complete with bank-to-bank logs going down the river. But the only person who thinks Stanley is capable is one of his mom’s suitors – of course the one he assumes is a cold-blooded murderer.