My Further Adventures: Northward to the Moon by Polly Horvath
"I don't know, Maya," Ned said tiredly. "I don't know why John left a bag of money in the forests of British Columbia. I don't know why my father just up and left our family one day. I don't know why my mother decided to hightail it up to Fort McMurray. I don't know why Ben stole the money and stranded Dorothy. I'm telling you, I don't know why anyone does anything. People do strange things.
In Polly Horvath's third book in her tales of Jane, beginning with the Newbery Award Everything on a Waffle and continuing through My One Hundred Adventures, Jane has found it unncessary to gin up her own adventures; in fact, unsought adventures threaten to overwhelm her! Her step-dad Ned has moved the whole family from their beloved beach-front cottage in Massachusetts to the drab and dry high prairie of Saskatchewan to teach high school French, a language of which he has no knowledge and the lack of which gets him fired in mid-term.
Jane hopes that the family will return to their seaside house, but Ned immediately drags the family through a side trip to visit a dying Indian woman named Mary who is asking for him. Because she once took him in as a homeless teenager, Ned feels compelled to go to her home in the woods of Nova Scotia, but once there, he finds out that Mary only wants to give him a sackful of money left for him by his elusive brother John.
With the money, Jane's mom Felicity, her sister Maya and little brothers in tow, Ned drives their ricketty car back to Las Vegas, his brother's last known address to return the cash. Although they find John gone to points unknown, Ned does learn that his mother is nearby, living on a horse ranch near Elko, Nevada, and they drive there, hoping to unravel the mystery of the money. But soon after their arrival, Ned's mother Dorothy is thrown from her horse and suffers an injury which requires Ned and his long-lost sisters to come together to sell her ranch and provide for her long-term care. Then Dorothy's trusted hired hand steals the money and the whole family finds themselves with Dorothy and little money retracing their steps back to their small cottage in Massachusetts. Thirteen-year-old Jane, who has felt the family's tenuous hold on reality during the whole venture, at last relaxes.
When we got back to the beach it is a wonderful salty homecoming. The moist air makes me come alive. I can feel it seeping into all my pores, which were shriveled in the desert dryness. It is as if I can finally breathe all over my body again. It is like a miracle to hear the waves crash and recede, crash and recede.
Ned finds a job teaching and translating Japanese, a language which he turns out actually to know quite well, and with Dorothy in a local convalescent home and Maya apparently emerging from her long depression, it looks as if the family has come home at last.
If Horvath's theme is that life is an unforeseeable journey, not a destination, this book certainly proves the case. Jane's observations are clear-eyed and real, and her drive to make sense out of her quirky family's doings comes to little even in the book's final words:
The next day Ned is gone.
He left a note.
But oh, what a journey the year's wanderings make in Horvath's latest, Northward to the Moon (Schwarz & Wade, 2010). A family uprooted, yet bound by close but inexplicable bonds, owning so little but with enough love to make any place a home wherever they are together, their life is a continuing adventure, and this novel is surely not the end of Jane's story.
Labels: Family Stories (Grades 5-9)