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Good Literature for Children & Adults

Red Kayak by Priscilla Cummings


Seriously Great Reading for Teenage Boys - Red Kayak by Priscilla Cummings

Summer is a very busy time at Parry Sound Books. Our reputation is based, in part, on our ability to recommend outstanding novels to our customers. In order to do this we read a lot of books! We then choose those that make the cut as excellent.

One of the best we’ve read this spring is Red Kayak by Priscilla Cummings, a novel that grabs the reader right from the first page. Three teenage boys, Brady, J.T., and Digger, are waiting together for a drive to school. They notice Brady’s neighbour going on to the river in a red kayak. Knowing the weather is not good and that the neighbour is not experienced, Brady thinks they should call out a warning. The others put him off and the moment of opportunity to do so passes.

The consequences of that moment and the decision made – or not made – will haunt them all in the days and months to come. Brady seems to be the most mature of the three, and it is Brady who will ask himself, over and over again, why he did not call out. The guilt that he will feel, and the “what if” will torture him, and no one – except his friends – will understand the guilt he will feel.

Someone died as a result of the inaction of these boys – and actions that come to light as the novel progresses. Brady has had experience with grief in his own life – his infant sister, Amanda, died from SIDS some years earlier. She is never mentioned in his home but this new death will force Brady and his parents to think about death, and it’s consequences, not only for the neigbour’s family but for their own.

This novel is very much about consequences, about how a small act can have huge consequences. In this case, tragic consequences. These boys will also struggle with right and wrong, and truth versus lies.

Brady’s father says, “if you know right from wrong, then the answer is always right there, smack in front of you. It’s when you get to thinkin’ on it that you get in trouble. Because doin’ what’s right is not always the easiest thing.” “It’s just that sometimes, even when the right answer is smack in front of you, you got to reach deep inside yourself to act on it. You know what I’m saying?”

Brady does finally admit the truth of the situation to his father and there are serious consequence for all involved – but there is also understanding and forgiveness and redemption. Big and important issues explored in a very gripping, suspenseful and satisfying novel.

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