301 pages, paper, 2012, North Star Press, St. Cloud, MN
A young family faces big problems – drugs (meth) and drug dealers, finances – trying to make a living, raising a family. They face these challenges with strength, weakness, humor, sustained by community, faith, and the importance of family. The story begins with a dramatic event – in this case an apparent homicide – and develops into a rich, compelling, contemporary drama. More than a murder mystery, it builds on the underlying theme of children and how they fare amid life’s struggles faced by parents, adults, communities.
383 pages, hard cover, 2007, North Star Press, St. Cloud, MN
In the late 1950s, a small group of junior high kids and their small town face-to-face with discrimination and injustice, underlying the “life was good” image of the era. Young Mario Ruiz and his mother leave their home in California for her summer school teaching job in the Midwest. They never intended to stay. Offered the opportunity to do so, Maria accepts a full-time job motivated in part by a chance to escape the past and make a fresh start. But their past follows them. When Mario and his friends embark on their adventure they end up experiencing lessons only talked about in seventh grade social studies class at Clareton Junior High. In trying to help the old bum living in a shack just outside town they see the discrimination and injustice that he faces. It’s a burden also carried in the story by a young, black police officer, Latino migrant workers, the mentally ill, and an un-wed mother.