I'm not ashamed to say I love Jeff Zentner. Every one of his books have kicked me in the feels and left me mourning after reading the last page just because I'm so devastated to be finished. And this book was no different.
It's about Cash, a damaged kid living in small town Tennessee. His grandparents have taken over bringing him up since his mother OD'd in their trailer when Cash was 13. He adores his grandparents and they adore him which makes it harder that his grandfather is slowly dying from emphysema.
Equally damaged is Cash's best friend, Delaney who he spends all his time with when he's not mowing lawns to help out with the family finances. The pair of them spend a lot of their time on the river in Cash's canoe. And it's on the river that Delaney discovers a fungus that may change modern medicine.
Off the back of this discovery, Delaney is offered a scholarship to an exclusive New England private school. And somehow she manages to get Cash one too so she doesn't have to go alone. On the one hand, this is an opportunity of a lifetime for Cash, but on the other, how can he leave when he can't be sure his Pawpaw will still be alive when he returns? But how can he allow Delaney to go so far away on her own?
This is a remarkable book about the resilience of the human spirit. Cash's life has broken him time and time again, yet he somehow manages to keep going. And to keep loving despite the pain this obviously causes him. He's my favourite kind of character - a damaged boy who somehow manages to remain a good person who does his best to make things better for the people he cares about.
Very recommended indeed.
But don't just listen to me. here's the blurb:
Life in a small Appalachian town is not easy. Cash lost his mother to an opioid addiction and his Papaw is dying slowly from emphysema. Dodging drug dealers and watching out for his best friend, Delaney, is second nature. He’s been spending his summer mowing lawns while she works at Dairy Queen.
But when Delaney manages to secure both of them full rides to an elite prep school in Connecticut, Cash will have to grapple with his need to protect and love Delaney, and his love for the grandparents who saved him and the town he would have to leave behind.
From the award-winning author of The Serpent King comes a beautiful examination of grief, found family, and young love.