The Plot In Five Sentences Or Less: Boy lives a simple existence on a manor estate in 14th century France: he tends the goats, sleeps in his hut, and tries to hide his hunchback from those who tease and call him names. His life is upended when a lone pilgrim named Secundus appropriates him for a trip to a local town to offer prayers to a holy relic. Along the way, Boy learns that Secundus has a longer journey in mind and divulges that he is on a quest to collect seven relics and take them to Rome. Boy finds himself swept up in an adventure that will open him up to the world beyond his manor home and learn extraordinary lesson about his true self.
My Take: Murdock has written an excellent novel here and definitely deserves its place as a Newberry Honor. I found myself caught up in the rough characters of Secundus and Boy. I marveled at Boy’s ability to rationalize his miserable existence at the manor and wondered how much grief was stored inside of him and how was he going to process it. Secundus is a more mysterious character who leaves the reader guessing at his motivations until deep into the book. I was touched by the convincing changes that both of these characters undergo and by the end was left feeling very close indeed to both of them. Mudrock deserves credit for weaving in supernatural elements in a seamless manner that almost makes them feel realistic. I often found myself wondering if something was real, the perspective of an unreliable narrator, or perhaps just the general beliefs of a more superstitious time in history. By keeping much back, Murdock kept me guessing, something that children’s literature rarely does. A highly recommended read for ages 12 +!
One Interesting Note About The Author: According to an interview with her, Catherine Gilbert Murdock prefers reading children’s literature to grown up books because she finds them “long-winded, depressing and lacking in resolution.”