On a warm early Sunday morning in October 1953, a barefoot Belle Prater left her bed and vanished from the face of the earth. Shortly after her disappearance, Belleâs 12-year-old son Woodrow is sent to live with his grandparents and left to wonder, what happened to his mother? As he adjusts to his new life without her, he finds comfort and friendship in his same age cousin Gypsy, who still bears the pain from her own fatherâs death.
This book gently explores childhood abandonment and grief. Woodrowâs over-zealous imagination and embellished story telling skills help him cope with his grief. Gypsy gets frustrated and questions why Woodrow isnât angry as she is. I enjoyed the uniqueness of each child, and especially grew fond of Woodrowâs character. Gawky and cross-eyed, you couldnât help but love his easy-going nature and jokester personality. I yearned to wrap my arms around both these kids and take their pain away, because their hurt was so tangible. There is a spirit of fun in the book, but it still deals candidly with some heavy, real life issues like bitterness, betrayal, and suicide. I should note there is also some drinking of wine to âsoothe the nervesâ and Woodrow pretends to spike a party guestâs punch.
Though I enjoyed the authorâs uncomplicated style and ability to convey this story, it was a bittersweet experience. The book offers mystery, memorable characters, and a scenic visit to rural Virginia, but the journey to the truth was sad. Belle Praterâs Boy is best suited for less sensitive children who are ready for a real people, emotional read powered by vivid descriptions of lazy summer afternoons and the joys of friendship. The Search for Belle Prater is the sequel.