Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Boy on the Porch, by Sharon Creech

This is a book that cuts to the heart of what a novel is about: an emotional journey. With not a lot of description, not a lot of plot, and an unspecified time period, The Boy on the Porch by Sharon Creech kept me turning pages as I wondered what would become of John and Marta, the young-ish married couple who seem to feel parenthood might be beyond their ken, and Jacob, the mute boy they find asleep on their porch one day, accompanied by nothing except a tragically illiterate note giving his name and saying "Wil be bak wen we can."

Unable to speak, Jacob soon shows artistic and musical talent, romps with the dog, rides the cow, and plays harmonica for the goats. John and Marta nervously assure each other that someone will be back for him, while at the same time they ease their way into parenthood and soon realize they will be crushed if anyone does return for him. Mistrusting the local sheriff but trying to do the right thing, John eventually works up his courage to visit the lawman's office and report that they have the boy. Though John is accused of having snatched him, this visit bring the sheriff out to their small farm, and when he sees that the boy is well cared for, he allows him to stay. John and Marta help Jacob make a friend, take him on walks, take him apple picking, and when they discover the abandoned trailer Jacob lived in, they consider selling all and moving away where no one will know them. And then comes the day the old car drives into their yard. Jacob's father is back. What happens next opens an entirely new world both for John and Marta, and for many others as well.

If I had to sum up the central point, I'd say it's that you can never be sure what can drop into your life, at any moment, even if you think you know exactly how it'll unfold, and even if you think it's sleepy and unnoted. You can never know for sure what small event, that you didn't ask for, might lead to a completely different path. And you can never know for sure that this won't be the day that love will knock you completely off your feet.

This novel alternates between two adult POVs -- John's and Marta's, and, though I'm very taken with it, it's the kind of book that makes you wonder if only a big name could get it published. The Boy on the Porch can appeal to all ages, although kids who want more action or don't care about adult POVs might find little to hold them. For others, the chance to gain insight into parents, or explore a feeling of being peers with adults due to ID-ing with the POVs, might be welcome.

11 comments:

Barbara Watson said...

I haven't heard of this novel of Sharon's, although I did just read her Newbery winner, WALK TWO MOONS.

Vijaya said...

Well, I adore everything Sharon Creech has published, so I look forward to reading this love story.

Marcia said...

Barbara -- I really should reread WTM. I didn't like it when it won the Newbery. Maybe I'd feel differently now.

Vijaya -- I bet you'll love this.

Marcia said...

Barbara -- I really should reread WTM. I didn't like it when it won the Newbery. Maybe I'd feel differently now.

Vijaya -- I bet you'll love this.

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

This sounds like a lovely read. However, I also wonder if anyone without a "big name" could get this published. It sounds like a quiet novel, a type said to be more difficult to sell. Curious. What is wrong with a more mellow read now and again if the story is good enough?

Mirka Breen said...

I was having the same thought as Cynthia Chapman Willis, wondering how you submit a story you describe as having little description or plot. Glad they make to to readers even if it takes an established writer with wonderful bona fides.

Ron Smith said...

I have to say, I only skimmed your post because after the first few sentences it sounded like something I wanted to read and I didn't want any more details!

Plus, I haven't read enough contemporary YA.

Marcia said...

Cynthia and Mirka -- I suspect you are right.

Ron -- I love that the post worked for you in that way. :)

Ruth Schiffmann said...

Once I started reading your review, I knew I had to read this book, so I stopped reading because I don't like knowing too much going in. Thanks for bringing this title to my attention, Marcia =)

Marcia said...

Ruth -- I love that even unread posts are helpful. :) Hope you enjoy the book!

Laura Pauling said...

I read the opening, beautifully written and emotional of course, but the first thought that crossed my mind was a well-known author is the only one to get a middle grade like that published. :)