Monday, May 16, 2016

Review: Search for the Homestead Treasure: A Mystery by Ann Treacy

I'm anxious to share with you a fantastic new book by Ann Treacy, published by the University of Minnesota Press. It's a fabulous piece of middle grade fiction with literary merit you need to know about.

Back in the day before my kids grew up and I was a homeschooling mom looking for great books to introduce to my kids, Ann's novel The Search for the Homestead Treasure would have fit the bill perfectly. I would have also considered it a compelling family read-aloud. The Search for the Homestead Treasure is the story of Martin Gunnarsson, a boy of fourteen who has had to resettle with his family on a dilapidated homestead in the wilds of Minnesota in 1903. Martin misses his friends and the life he had in Stillwater, but his dad was born on this farm and raised nearby after his parents and only sibling died of diphtheria. The family moved after Martin's older (and he thinks, better loved) brother Dan is killed in a tragic accident. Now Martin is left here on this miserable farm with a mother who is self-medicating a mental breakdown, a little sister who is annoying and dependent, an older aunt who is trying to hold the frayed household together, and a farm that needs to produce a profit, or else it'll be swept up into the paws of a local banker who covets the property. Martin's dad has gone to make some ready cash at a logging camp, but when he is injured and kept away to face a long recovery, the burden of saving a homestead he doesn't even want falls on Martin's young shoulders.

Enter the gypsies who camp nearby and cause the local folk many suspicions. Particularly there's Samson, a Roma (gypsy) boy who Martin meets in a surprising, frightening way, but who becomes a key to Martin's ability to deal with the pressures he faces.

Finally, there's Cora's diary. Cora was the aunt who died of diphtheria long ago, a 12-year old girl carrying a unique set of burdens all her own on this same, struggling homestead. She writes of a treasure her mother -- Martin's grandmother -- brought with her from the old country, a dowry she never turned over to her husband but kept hidden, a treasure never discovered over the years. Could this lost treasure still exist, and could it save the homestead?

I would love to tell you more about this in-depth story of regrets and new beginnings, of the mystique of the Roma people in our country's history and lingering prejudices, of hard work making a boy into a man. Read Ann's novel. Intricate details of place and time are woven into the story's fabric, and Martin's coming of age story will fascinate you.

*Note: The novel contains several incidents of mild language.

Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble
University of Minnesota Press

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