Sparrow Road by Sheila O’Connor
Twelve-year-old Raine O’Rourke cannot understand why her single mother has abruptly decided to leave their Milwaukee home and her beloved Grandpa Mac to live and work for the summer at an old Lake Michigan estate. Sparrow Road, once an orphanage, is owned and run as an artist colony by stern, enigmatic Viktor Berglund, who imposes strict rules of conduct such as silence until dinner, and Raine is further restricted from leaving the premises, even as her mother and Viktor make mysterious trips to town. She tries to make the best of the situation, exploring the attic where vestiges of the orphanage give her fodder for her own writing, as she uses slim clues to create the persona of orphan Lyman Chase. With help from Diego, a wise and kindly artist, and flamboyant craftswoman Josie, Raine begins to adjust until the real reason for her mother’s decision is revealed: the father she has never even heard of lives nearby and wants to meet and get to know her. What follows is a thoughtful coming-of-age story that explores old and new relationships and conflicting family loyalties as Raine learns important things about herself and is left to make a serious decision about her father. Adding interest to this novel, set in a time before computers and cell phones, is a touch of mystery surrounding the orphanage, and Josie’s brainchild of an Art Extravaganza that brings townspeople and former orphans back to Sparrow Road. Lyrical writing in this first-person narrative, good character development, and a sympathetic heroine will keep readers absorbed. Marie Orlando, formerly at Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY
This book is a 2013-14 Mark Twain Award Nominee.