A sweet, dark, rich novel set in the Cold War era of rural Ontario, Canada and told through the eyes of Madeleine McCarthy, an eight year old To Kill a Mockingbird Scout-like character.
Madeleine is a smart, precocious child whose Royal Canadian Air Force father Jack is transferred from Germany to the barren Centralia Air Force Base, not exactly a plum posting. Jack is assigned to the base to watch a Soviet defector who is secreted into the United States to work on missiles, but Jack’s mission is undercover.
The amazing thing about this novel is that the structure is not static – it starts as a slow and innocent narrative, an almost idyllic portrayal of life in the 1960′s, as Madeleine describes rural military base life, her drop-dead gorgeous mother Mimi’s antics, and her protective older brother Mike. The plot darkens with the discovery of a child’s body in a barren field; with that, the novel becomes a becomes a twisty, labyrinth of secrets.
Madeleine hides from her parents a teacher who steals her innocence. Her father has his own secrets that threaten to destroy his family as well as national security. The ending, related through Madeleine’s adult eyes, is riveting and unexpected. Ultimately, this is a compelling novel about secrets, relationships, and coming of age violently in a topsy-turvy world.