After her mother died of cancer at a Florida clinic seven years ago, young Donna Lane assumed child rearing duties for her four-year-old brother Will while trying to keep house. Donna’s alcoholic and abusive father did little to lighten her burdens and now, at seventeen, she is entertaining dreams of escaping the small Ohio town and becoming a fashion designer when she graduates high school. Will, now eleven, dreams of getting his one square inch of Alaska, part of joint promotional campaign for tasteless cereal and the television show featuring Sergeant Striker. While eating his way through the required ten boxes of cereal, Will strikes up a friendship with an abused husky he names Trusty.
For a brief few months, Donna’s life is made a bit easier when she becomes the steady girlfriend of a boy from one of the town’s wealthier families but that reprieve is soon shattered by a breakup and Will’s deadly leukemia diagnosis. Despite impossible odds, Donna takes the money she’d been oh-so-painfully saving up for New York and decides to make Will’s dying wish come true. He is determined to see his one square inch of land and take Trusty back “home” because everyone knows huskies come from Alaska. Along the way, Donna does a lot of growing up and comes to realize that life is made up of a series of small choices and most of the time; people aren’t really bad, they’re just doing the best they can.
Set in the mid-fifties when polio was a real concern, this touching coming of age story will capture and hold your attention from start to finish. The finely nuanced characters and setting allow readers to get a feel of a time when McCarthyism and labor unions were the hot topics. Donna is a strong young woman trying to do her best in difficult situations and Will’s illness only adds to the load but rather then becoming resentful, she rises to the challenge with grace. The life lessons Donna learns will allow her to forgive those who should have been there for her and move on. Will’s character shows the importance of living life and realizing ones dreams even in the face of obstacles. This is a delightful tale to curl up with as it celebrates living life to the fullest.