FICTION

Cloudmaker

Grove. Mar. 2021. 400p. ISBN 9780802127051. $27. F
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Houston “Huck” Finn, a precocious 14-year-old, has built, flown, and crashed his own glider, but he’s on to bigger things. It’s 1937 in rural Montana, and with the Great Depression in full swing, Huck has to economize with parts from Model Ts and vacuum cleaners to build a two-seater mono wing, following instructions in the 1932 Flying and Glider Manual. He uses the back room of his father’s machine shop and the expertise of a blacksmith named Yakima McKee to build his plane. When his teenage cousin Annelise arrives from Los Angeles, she brings sophistication beyond her years and experience as a pilot (she wears a Lindbergh flight watch). Life abruptly changes when Huck discovers a bullet-riddled corpse floating in the river, also wearing a Lindbergh flight watch. Huck filches the valuable watch for safekeeping, which brings law enforcement and the victim’s outlaw cronies to his doorstep. But Huck, Annelise, and McKee form an undaunted team, not only to bring the airplane into being but also to solve the criminals’ activities. It’s an exciting summer in Big Coulee, MT.
VERDICT With a nod to Ivan Doig’s straightforward folksy style, this impressive second novel after Painted Horses tells an earnest, heartfelt family story with laugh-out-loud humor, deep-seated family conflicts, and distressing coming-of-age crises. Enthusiastically recommended.

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