4 out of 4 stars
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The lives of four people—Traci, Tracey, Calahan, and Terry—intersect at Willem Haskey’s summer camps after they go through traumatic circumstances. Meanwhile, real estate agent Ernest Abelo is after the land where the camps are and which has been in Haskey’s family for generations. When Abelo’s tricky methods do not convince Haskey to sell the property, he asks Gruber, a former caretaker of the camps who is a drunk, to take extreme measures. Will Traci, Tracey, Calahan, and Terry find peace and healing at the summer camps? What will happen to Haskey’s camps and land?
In a Boulder’s Shadow by JM Briggs is a fiction novel that brings up the controversial and contemporary subjects of gun violence, schools’ shootings, and gang life. I selected to review this novel to get out of my reading comfort zone. I thought it was going to be a tough read, and honestly speaking, that I was not going to enjoy it. I was so wrong. Briggs discusses all of these harsh themes against the backdrop of nature, history, and legend, making it a story about healing after tragic events.
My favorite aspect of this novel was Briggs’ amazing ability creating characters. All of the primary and secondary characters of this book have strong backstories, and most of them are going through a tough time. For example, one survived a school shooting, and another survived an explosion in the war in Afghanistan. Briggs’ talent shines through when his characters’ lives converge at the summer camps, which are located in a land rich in history and legend. I loved reading about the Native American family who wanders through the apple orchard. I was amazed at how he managed to bring all of the primary and secondary characters’ lives together while also telling the generational story of Haskey’s property. I concluded that this is a book about the power nature has to heal and help humans find peace; therefore, we have to protect it.
Briggs astutely discusses relevant and important themes of our times. One of the themes that left its mark on me was how the gang life in cities like Chicago negatively impact children’s lives. Briggs portrays how teachers do what they can for the kids who live in neighborhoods plagued with poverty and gangs. Children join these gangs because they cannot see another way of life for themselves. Then, these kids become criminals and end up dead or in jail. Another theme that I found important was how teachers are not valued enough in the United States. For example, their salaries are not enough considering all of the work they do.
A professional edited this book, as I only found three grammatical errors. The only thing I did not particularly like was that the characters have the same type of shortened nicknames. Examples are that Haskey calls his daughter Kirstin by the nickname of Kirs. Calahan calls his friend Tazyhiro by the nickname of Taz, and Owen calls Haskey by the nickname of Hask.
I rate In a Boulder’s Shadow by JM Briggs 4 out of 4 stars. It is an excellent character-driven novel that brings awareness about contemporary subjects and reminds us of nature’s healing power. I recommend this book to fans of fiction books that bring up controversial themes and set in natural spaces. However, this story contains violent scenes, so I would not recommend it to sensitive readers.
In a Boulder’s Shadow
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