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God’s Kingdom by Howard Frank Mosher

god's kingdomThe Kinneson family has deep roots in the Northeast Kingdom, that most northeasterly and remote section of Vermont.  The family’s history in the area varies from respectable to scandalous.  Young Jim Kinneson knows some of his family’s stories, but he has bigger obstacles – namely, getting through adolescence in the 1950s.

We first meet Jim at fourteen, going through the familial initiation known as a deer hunt, in which he is successful, and more thoughtful, by its end.  The following summer, Jim is elected to be the town baseball team’s designated driver on a trip to Boston to see their beloved Red Sox, even though he is underage to drive and can barely do so.

As he navigates his teenage years, Jim finds and maintains friendships in some unlikely places, has to stare down hostility, and finds a first love.  He also discovers a shocking fact in his family’s shadowy past.  All of these are cumulative happenings to Jim’s eventual trek to the state university.

God’s Kingdom starts out as almost a Walton-esque family tale – easygoing, somewhat wholesome – and then addresses the hard facts of life quietly, but without pulling a punch.  There’s serious tragedy here, and certain elements of the Kinneson clan are far from clean-handed.  Jim’s immediate family are decent people, though, and you will root for him as he makes his level-headed way through life.

Jim’s grandfather easily became one of my favorite characters in the book.  A natural raconteur, he is a strong role model, and teaches Jim more about life than just “being a man.”

God’s Kingdom harkens back to a rural place and a quieter time, where technologies ended with paved roads and railroad tracks, everyday wisdom got you through the day, and a gentle humor ran through life.

(William Hicks, Information Services)

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