I listened to the audiobook of the 2005 Newbery honor book Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt and narrated by Sam Freed last week. I am already such a fan of Gary D. Schmidt that it wasn’t hard to sell me on this title. I had tried to read it once before and lost interest before I got too invested in the story, but this time I was determined to stick it out. The tone of this novel is different than the other books by Schmidt that I have read and loved, but in the end I was glad to have read this novel and learn a bit about a little piece of history that I knew nothing about.
This is the story of Turner Buckminster, son of the new Presbyterian minister in a small Maine town in the early 1900s. His introduction into adolescent male society isn’t very auspicious, and this is compounded by the fact that he’s a minister’s son and is expected to act like it. He finds freedom when he meets a girl, Lizzie Bright, who lives on Malaga Island, which is inhabited by descendents of former slaves. Malaga Island is considered a blight and burden on the town, and the main plot turns on the fact that everyone-who’s-anyone in town wants Malaga Island’s inhabitants to be evicted to make room for a bustling tourist industry.
There’s a lot to this story, but the main conflict of the story revolves around race and poverty and hypocrisy. It’s also a coming-of-age story. Gary D. Schmidt gets the Maine setting as right as I can imagine, with whales figuring hugely (pun intended) into Turner’s experience. It’s a tragedy, but it ends hopefully. I enjoyed it a lot and found the audiobook version easy listening. I was intrigued especially by two things: first, that Malaga Island actually exists and its story is as sad as Schmidt portrays it. Second, that Gary D. Schmidt is a master at creating fathers that absolutely make my blood run cold. (If that doesn’t make you want to read one of his books, what will? 🙂 )
I don’t love this one as much as I love the other two of his I’ve read, but it’s still a very worthwhile and heart-wrenching read. I’m glad I read it. (Yearling, 2004)
Reviews of Gary D. Schmidt’s other books here at Hope Is the Word: