The Buried Book, by D. M. Pulley

I wish I had a better sense of who was the target audience of this book. It’s a story about a nine-year-old boy (Jasper Leary) whose mother disappears. In some ways it feels like a YA book. Then there’s a scene … well, everything in its place.

So the year is 1952. The main character is a child living with his parents in Detroit. His mother disappears and his father drives him to a farm some sixty miles away owned by the child’s uncle, the mother’s brother. Jasper finds a diary kept by his mother when she was about 14 that offers some clues (but is really more of a distraction) to her disappearance. The first fourth to a third of the book drags pretty miserably with a focus on farm life. If you make it through this it turns into a fairly nice adventure but then ends in a way where the reader is left thinking that Jasper was better off as a loved nephew on his uncle’s farm.

Let me set some credentials. I was not raised on a farm. But I was married to the daughter of a farmer (a depression-era farmer at that) for 28 years, and was married to the daughter of a Montana cattle rancher before that. Luck of the draw. I have heard enough stories about farm life to fill a few books. Not this book, which really doesn’t feel fully realistic. There are other anachronisms in the book that were distracting or irritating and showed some poor research by the author. Just as an example: after a destructive tornado (yes, they have them in Michigan) the local sheriff says “the state is saying it was a category 5”. They might have said that in 1973, after the Fujita (where we get F5) system was developed and adopted but not in 1952. A fair part of the book takes place on a nearby reservation where Native Americans talk like Tonto. Were 1952 Native Americans really calling distilled liquor “fire water”?

Because of … let’s call it “functional” … prose the book feels a lot like a book for young adults. That’s not a problem for me. I frolicked through Harry Potter and Hunger Games like the rest of the reading world. But then there’s a scene where this nine-year-old is back in Detroit and, after being chased by what we fear is a bad guy, manages to fall under the protection of a hooker/booth-performer. To let him earn some money needed for a bus ride she has him mop up some of the observing booths used by customers where the walls are liberally sprinkled with “spoiled milk”. Well, that definitely raises the age level of any reader in my family … maybe past my age.

Another distraction for me were the chapter headings. A few, taken at random: “Did he drink much? Ever lost his temper?” “What happened when you went home?” “Didn’t they suspect something was wrong with you?” Sometimes these headings follow the narrative, sometimes not, but it’s hard to tell if these are from police investigating the events or a psychologist following up with the protagonist.

It’s fairly well-reviewed on Amazon, and the Kindle version is in the top 2000 for its category which is no mean feat. I like a good deal of the middle. The beginning and ending not so much, and I’m not going to be hunting down new stuff by the author soon.