3 out of 4 stars
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The Highest Hill is the story of a young boy growing up in rural Kentucky. His mother is beaten down by his abusive, alcoholic father, but she is devoted to her four children. Bobby is the youngest of the four and the story centers around him as he grows from a boy into a man.
Bobby’s best friend is his brother Jack, who is about 2 years older than Bobby. Harlan is the oldest. He only appears sporadically in the story because he left the home at an early age to escape his father’s abuse. Next in line is Hannah. Hannah largely plays the role of mother to Jack and Bobby since their own mother works every day, and gets home late. Pap, Bobby’s father, comes and goes. When he is there he is fine until he starts drinking, then watch out! Sometimes he goes for months without taking a drink, but he always ends up going back to the bottle.
Bobby loves school, reading books, and hanging out with Jack. Bobby also has dreams. He is always seeking to conquer the “highest hill” he can see. As a youngster, his family lives in a garage at the base of the highest hill in the area. On the top of that hill is a white house owned by an elderly widow. Bobby and Jack frequently help her out around the house, in exchange for pocket change, and she always has cookies or cakes waiting for them. Bobby dreams of living in the house on the hill. When she dies, a teacher and his wife purchase the property and Bobby gets to know the man well and helps him in the yard. One day, he tells Bobby that his wife is not happy in the house and wants to move back to the city, but he thinks it will be difficult to sell. Bobby suggests that his parents are interested in buying the house but can’t make a large down payment. The teacher agrees to sell the house to them for a small down payment and he finances the mortgage himself. Suddenly, Bobby’s dream has come true and they move into the white house. In the attic, he discovers stacks and stacks of books and sets about to read each one.
The story continues with the events and adventures of Bobby, Jack, and Hannah as they grow to adulthood and start their own families. Bobby narrates throughout and there are some very well written scenes: the boys find themselves being “arrested” by Army Rangers one day, and Bobby’s first encounters with girls. I found the character of Bobby to be very well developed, and each of the children were completely believable. The author also did a good job of portraying life in the time period, the World War II era.
I did however have a couple of problems with the book. There were times when the story felt like it was dragging, especially in the middle. Also, at times the narrative seemed to hint at some kind of mysterious destiny for Bobby but nothing ever came of those hints. As a reader I felt like I was just left hanging. For these reasons I’m giving this book 3 out of 4 stars.
The Highest Hill
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