The Search for the Homestead Treasure
By : Ann Treacy
Publisher ; Univ. of Minnesota Press ( May 2016)
An alluring depiction of a young boy`s journey through a painful and arduous life! Intriguing and beautifully written, complete with an amazing friendship and a mystery to solve.
Fiction involving history requires preciseness as much as imagination. Undoubtedly, the author has done justice to the characters in her story from this lesser known era, which spans from the 1860`s to 1904, and provides a glimpse of three generations of the earliest farming communities in Minnesota.
Ann Treacy has cleverly embedded information about the two early generations into the third generation, where the child protagonist is from. Fourteen year-old Martin moves into an abandoned homestead owned by his father`s family with the burden of his brother`s tragic death in his mind along with his father, great aunt, a highly depressed mother and a saddened sister. Above all he misses his old life and friends in Stillwater.
The homestead was previously owned by his grandparents, Swedish immigrants. Except for his father, the whole family - including his aunt at a very young age - had died of diphtheria. Martin finds the diary of his long dead aunt in an old trunk. Fascinated by her writings, he continues to read it. Aunt Cora`s diary keeps him company, while offering readers more information about this era. Some clues about the treasure provided in her diary also will keep readers engrossed, but Martin is too preoccupied to pay much attention to these clues at the beginning.
The mystery of the treasure is very much a subplot in this story. The focus is more into the tragedies faced by Martin and his family. All of such incidents are interwoven by the portrayal of Martin`s hopes & hard work and by Cora`s diary.The story is spiced up by Martin`s meeting of his gypsy friend Simon through whom the colorful life in a Gypsy community is revealed. A friendship that has to be kept a secret. And the entertainment culminates with the slight though innocent romance between Martin and the beautiful gypsy girl Ruby. The story progression introduces many supporting characters to charm the reader, from the superstitious and caring aunt Ida to the greedy banker Meehan. Treacy is so descriptive about these characters that we could easily picture these people and loose ourselves in her story.
Young readers will be fascinated by the details about these early settlers and their hardships. They will be awestruck by the heroism and courage of Martin in his confrontations of those obstacles. While Martin`s mother dozed on "patent medicines" in grief, and his father bed-ridden from an unexpected work accident, Martin`s powers of early manhood are tested again and again through many challenging incidents, at a time when running a homestead in itself was far more challenging than today. One cannot stop but admire the boy as he learns and takes up his duties and then sympathize with his yearning for the guidance of a grown-up. The help offered by Samson that has to be kept a secret and how their friendship strengthens with the passing of each day is obviously a pleasing sight for the readers.
How Martin`s character develops into a well matured and an independent young lad is very much appealing. And Simon's development into a literate and insightful boy obviously satisfies the reader. Martin and Samson are two well tuned characters which also showcases the author`s capabilities.
A dramatic and well-paced tale, rich with an array of incidents involving vivid characters. It will surely keep the readers absorbed, loving and admiring the two heroic boys and wishing that they will uncover the treasure sooner.
(With many thanks to University of Minnesota Press and Net Galley for the ARC in return for a honest review)