Saturday, August 22, 2009
"The Last Child" Worth the effort.
John Hart's "The Last Child" is his third novel and continues his tradition of well written, literary mysteries.
His 13 year old protagonist, Johnny Merrimon reminds me ot Tom Sawyer and I think some of Hart's writing could be influenced by Mark Twain.
Johnny Merrimon has a good family and normal life until his sister Alyssa vanishes. A year goes by, during which Johnny's father has left home and not been seen again, and his mother has a boyfriend who is abusive to her and to Johnny.
No one seems to believe that Alyssa could still be alive after being missing for so long but Johnny continues his search. He has make up maps of his community and goes out at night asking others if they might have seen his sister. He has one friend, Jack who is constantly with Johnny and looks up to him. In this it is similar to Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.
There is also a police officer, Det. Hunt who understands what Johnny may be going through and takes a personal interest in Johnny, and his mother, Katherine's unfortunate circumstances.
One night Johnny comes upon a mototcyclist who has just been hit by a car and lays in the road, injured. The cyclist tells Johnny, "I found her." Then he hears the car returning and tells Johnny to run.
Johnny returns home that night and finds another child is missing. Since this is a young girl, Johnny doesn't know if the man on the motorcycle meant his sister or the new missing child. Det. Hunt takes Johnny to the spot of the man's accident and they find his body at the foot of a bridge.
Johnny makes a major discovery not long after that (The reader will have to find this portion themselves so as not to spoil the plot).
This is an excellent, well written work. During the story there is also reference to Golding's "The Lord of the Flies" and it is fair to compare Johnny with the protagonist of Golding's work, Ralph. In particular when Johnny feels he must climb to a birds nest and get a feather for good luck.
The plot is original and has many subplots that heighten the reader's interest. Johnny is a well drawn, sympathetic character who the reader pulls for throughout the story.