Themes of social injustice, reconciliation and the past’s impact on the present, connect linked stories of fathers and children, in this thoughtful middle grade novel set in 1938 and 2014 in the mining town of Victory, Arizona.
Victory is a company town and anyone who stands up to the company is vindictively punished: in 1938, Aristotle Agrippa takes the miners on strike to win basic workers’ rights, and ends up disgraced and an apparent suicide; in 2014, John O’Malley, who has blown the whistle on the company’s dangerous fracking practices, is wrongly sentenced to death for arson and murder.
Two characters link the stories: Joshua Garrett who is a boy in 1938 and a grandfather in 2014, and Margaret O’Malley who travels from the present day back to 1938 in order to set right a wrong there which she hopes will impact on the future and save her father. Though “history resists” Margaret’s plans, the time travel element – a “quirk” of her family – is integral and allows the reader to understand how the wrongs of the present have roots in the past.
Both of these characters, and their friends and families are wonderfully realized people, and their locations and eras, particularly that of Canvasburg, the tent city where the striking miners live, feel authentic and immediate.
The resolution is perhaps a little unrealistic in its speed and efficacy, but readers will enjoy the twists and turns of these braided lives enough not to fret about that. An authors’ note on real life Canvasburgs would have been welcome.