It's 1967 in rural Iowa as drugs, corporate farming, and Vietnam are beginning to take their toll on small-town American life. When Charles Weaver's plans for the summer after high school graduation go awry, he ends up working for the street crew in his hometown before heading off to college.
Charles, school valedictorian and son of a lawyer, not only knows nothing about driving tractors and laying asphalt, he can't remember even meeting the regular members of the crew: Dexter, who collects discarded furniture for the house he's going to build someday in the Ozarks; the Shakespeare-quoting Moss, a teacher in rural schools before consolidation of the district, and their boss, Clyde, whose strength and temper are legendary in Savannah County.
Two things change Charles's summer experience and life dramatically. On the spur of the moment, he asks Clyde's daughter, Frankie, to go on a date and their romance is a surprise to everyone. Then, the oldest log church in Iowa is destroyed by fire, and Charles stumbles upon a badly-burned body while cleaning up debris. Was this an outsider mixing meth in the hard-to-find church, as the sheriff contends? Or was someone local involved, as Charles suspects? Charles, the sheriff, and Frankie collide in a stunning climax of this novel about a boy becoming a man through his growing awareness of the complexity of love and the subtle power of evil.
"A tale of profound, irrevocable changes in the middle of America in the 1960s, as a sheltered, upper-middle-class teenager becomes transformed, not only in his own physical and spiritual self, but also in his awareness of class and race and forces of discrimination he'd never had a clue of before. The narrative is powerful in its solid simplicity and dramatic, quietly vivid events. Although the time is past, the novel is very much of the present." -- Ellen Cooney, author, One Night Two Souls Went Walking; The Mountaintop School for Dogs, and more.
"A lovely, clear-eyed book about a young man's dawning awareness of extraordinary men and women, as well as the hard realities, in a Midwestern town where he's grown up. A moving evocation of people living in a world that's undergoing change, and the ways, some deeply compassionate, others coldly cruel, with which they move into the unknown." -- Douglas Penick, author, Journey of the North Star
"A teenager becomes a man over the course of one summer as he learns about love and the nature of hard work in small-town Iowa. As the summer unfolds, a fire at Iowa's oldest log church shakes up the town, setting Charles and the town's sheriff on a collision course. The writing is lean with moments of tenderness, and explores themes of class distinction and the common humanity that binds us all together." -- Don Trowden, author, Normal Family Trilogy