Quill & Quire Review - Between Shadows

Reviewed by: Cynthia O'Brien

When his grandfather dies, 12-year-old Ari inherits a rustic, rainbow-painted cabin in B.C., along with a lucrative piece of land. The catch? His father and aunt, both strapped for cash, have the power to sell the land and put the money into a trust fund instead. Ari feels empowered by the inheritance and thinks moving to the cabin could mean a fresh start.

Three years before, Ari’s mother died in a car accident on the family’s only visit to the cabin. Ari and his father, living in Toronto, have not been back since. Even Aunt Laurel has only spent one summer there, so Ari has an uphill battle convincing his relatives of the treasure they’ve been given. While the adults negotiate with realtors and developers, Ari meets the local kids and gets a taste of life in the woods.

There are good things about Kathleen Cook Waldron’s Between Shadows, not least the details Ari discovers as he explores his new home: the thrill of a secret beach, the sound of a loon, the sight of a bear fishing from the creek. Passages such as Gramps’s letter to his family and the revelation of a treasure trove of “fairies” are genuinely touching. There’s even some comic relief in the gathering of neighbours with bad hairdos trying to convince Aunt Laurel that she’s needed in the community. However, it all feels a little too predictable and the characterizations somewhat flat. For instance, the developer is shady and obnoxious, while the locals are friendly and honest. Ari seems by turns too insightful for his age and too naive for a city boy (what urban teen says “Holy granola!”?). Despite these flaws, this pleasant if undemanding story has underlying warmth in its themes of the importance of community, family, and preserving the wilderness, as well as a happy ending that’s as bright as Gramps’s rainbow-coloured cabin.

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