Over the space of a Labor Day weekend in 1987, thirteen year old Henry's life is forever changed when he and his mother meet fugitive Frank Chambers. In an odd encounter, Frank approaches Henry and judging him trustworthy, asks Henry and his mother Adele to take him home with them, and for reasons known only to them, they do. During the next few days, Frank ingratiates himself into their lives, teaching Henry to play baseball and bake a pie, and falling in love with the quirky, depressive Adele. The three live within the cocoon of the world they create as the rest of the community searches for Frank, an escaped murderer. As the days pass, Frank's bitter story emerges; wrongly accused of murdering his wife and child, he took the first chance he got to escape, and with his gentle ways and care, he slowly brings Adele back to life and helps Henry confront his confusion over a mostly uninvolved father and a helpless mother.
Written in Maynard's trademark spare style, this odd set-up somehow works its magic and pulls you in. Told from Henry's point of view, we experience all the longings of a young teen with too much responsibility. Henry is somewhat of a social outcast; his mother has burdened him with her inability to function outside her home so that he is her only lifeline to the world. Frank, a Viet Nam vet, somehow makes the three into a family in a short period of time, knowing it won't last but grasping at whatever freedom he can achieve, both from his past and his present. Henry makes both good and bad choices here; both typical and atypical, Henry's a main character filled with confusion, at the mercy of parents too concerned with themselves to worry much about him.
I at first let the premise of allowing an escaped felon into your home willingly get in the way of my enjoyment of this novel, but once I set aside my own worries over the probability of this happening, I found that I was immersed in this story of old beyond his years Henry and his nervous, needy mother. Maynard's characters are real and poignant, and Henry tells the story honestly. Moving and desperate, this coming of age tale will pull you into its depths and leave you thinking about it long after you close the last page.