Today I'm turning my blog into a review of a book I enjoyed, but I found doesn't quite meet my criteria for a Meridian review. It's borderline YA and adult, lauds some questionable standards, and is a rewarding read anyway.
At Season's End by Eric Hendershot produced mixed feelings for me. The story is of a young girl during the depression whose family follows the crops. They pick, weed, and hoe from the citrus orchards in Florida to the apple and cherry crops in Oregon and everywhere in between. Transients, migrants, pickers, and a number of derogatory names have been given to these people. As a child I lived a life close enough to theirs to have a feel for it. I too, know what it is to pick raspberries, apples, peaches, cherries, potatoes, and strawberries in the big commercial fields. I've done my share of hoeing beans and thinning beats as well. My family didn't follow the crops, but we usually moved at least once a year, we were poor, and anyone willing to work hard could usually find farm work or attach themselves to a migrant crew, which my mother, sisters, and I did.
Sal is thirteen when the story begins and her brother, Tim a year younger. Since her father lost the farm the family has traveled the country doing whatever farm work is available. They earn only enough to move on to the next job. They form deep friendships with other migrant families whom they may only see once a year. Such is the case with a young boy Sal's Paw recues from the Columbia River. Friendship for the boy turns to love as they return to the cherry orchards each year. This once-a-year friendship blossoms into romance, but has to survive a bumpy road when disaster strikes, leaving Sal and Tim to fend for themselves half a continent away from their rendezvous point with the boy Sal loves.
The easy acceptance of lying and manipulating is made to look necessary for survival and even commendable and clever in this book, which made me uncomfortable, especially since most of the people I once knew following this line of work were scrupulously honest . Most of the author's depictions of this hard but addicting lifestyle is accurately portrayed along with the harsh realities of the Great Depression. I read an uncorrected advanced reader's copy which blurred the deliberate poor grammar with the typos, misspelled words, and grammatical errors of the original and typeset manuscript to make reading difficult. In spite of these flaws, I found the story appealing and thought-provoking. The story is well told with memorable characters and a plot arc that keeps the reader wanting more.
At Season's End is published by Cedar Fort. Hendershot is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but there are no tie-ins to the Church in the book. He is a writer/director of direct-to-video family friendly feature films and documentaries.