A Small White Scar
Young Adult: Historical; Realistic; Rural
Fifteen-year-old Will Bennon leaves his family and begins life as a cowboy, but his twin brother with mental disabilities follows him and joins the journey. (BWI description)
Nominated for four awards. Recipient of Booklist Editor's Choice Award: 2006.
When I first bought this book for the library, back in 2006, I thought it sounded somewhat intriguing, but also like the plot of so many Westerns I’ve seen in my lifetime. Also, I live in the country, and am surrounded by cowboys and country women. I am a country woman. We’re different in the rural west; we truly are. We have true grit.
I was worried that the book had been written by someone who might never have been on a horse. Someone with absolutely no idea what country life is really all about. You get my drift. So I passed on it, until I came across it again recently, and decided to give it a try. I need not have worried. Nuzum understands country living. She understands the human heart, and she is a truly wonderful writer.
Since his mother died seven long years ago, it’s been fifteen-year-old Will’s job to look after his twin brother, who has Down’s Syndrome. It’s 1940. They live on a ranch in Colorado, and that’s what his dad needs and expects of Will. But Will wants to be a man. He wants to do a man’s job, not look after his retarded brother. He's getting awfully tired of having Denny follow him everywhere, and so he decides to run away. He plans to join a rodeo. To be sure, he feels guilty about it. But he’s also angry, and it feels like a solution to him. But then, on the day Will runs away, Denny follows him on horseback. Will does everything he can to convince Denny to go home, but like something you just can't get rid of, Denny stubbornly refuses. Despite all, Will loves Denny and feels protective toward him. The two ride on. They run into predictable obstacles, such as rattlesnakes and raging rivers. Eventually, Will joins a rodeo. In the end, Denny confronts his father and they work out some solutions.
From the plot description, the book sounds like so many books you’ve read or heard about, or TV Westerns. But it is completely realistic. The setting is vividly drawn. There is no sentimentality or toxic nostalgia, and none of the didacticism that you might expect to find in in a book with a plot description like this, and especially one written for youth.
The quality of the writing is everything. It rises to the top like thick cream in a jug of fresh milk.