© Katherine Paterson, illustration © Barry Moser.
Robbie Hewitt lives an idyllic life in a small Vermont town at the very end of the 19th century, but he would not agree with that assessment. He’s the son of the town preacher, and therefore burdened with expectations of how he should act. Everyone expects him to be “good.” Robbie has no natural talent for that. He leans the other way, prone to mischief, with a hot temper and the fists to back it up. When a visiting hell-and-brimstone preacher declares that Armageddon is fast approaching with the end of the current century, Robbie decides he has to act fast to get in as much adventure as he can before then.
Robbie’s best friend Willie is a good accomplice for many things, but when Robbie happens on a drunken drifter and his sarcastic daughter living in a half-collapsed shack in the woods, Robbie decides to keep them a secret from everyone. That’s a decision he’ll come to regret. Meanwhile, the town’s two rich boys are always on Robbie’s case, making it harder than ever to at least try to be good. In a fight with them, he goes too far, and decides to hide out with the drifter until things blow over. That leads to more trouble.
This is the first book by award-winning author Katherine Paterson that I’ve read, and I enjoyed it. Her character is a bit like Huck Finn in some ways, both entertaining and real. The period is well depicted, too. Recommended.