Jasper Spring

James T. Hughes, illustrated by John Gritts

Publisher: Dog Ear Publishing Pages: 401 Price: (paperback) $19.95 ISBN: 9781457550010 Reviewed: April, 2017 Author Website: Visit »

Jasper Spring is the story of a couple struggling to survive in an endlessly challenging landscape and what happens when a lonely young boy enters their lives.

Dwarfed by the vastness of the land and by the sometimes-capricious twists of nature—storms, drought and a devastating fire—Alice and Tucker, with the aid of two horses and a wise border collie named Tommie, have built a solid life for themselves, overcoming the catastrophes of Alice’s two miscarriages and the daily hardships posed by living in the isolation of Jasper Spring.

Their settled existence is disrupted, however, by the sudden appearance of Ray, a young boy who lives nearby in a broken-down old trailer with his inattentive mother who, on occasion, beats him.  Predictably, Alice and Tucker offer the boy refuge, and before long the three become partners in maintaining the home and livestock, with Ray helping where he can and learning what life can be like when people care about each other.

But even as tranquility blooms, it’s threatened by the sudden appearance of an agent for a developer with schemes of opening the land for tourists, a menace that looms over the rest of the narrative. And to make matters worse, disaster soon strikes, threatening both lives and property with annihilation.

The “characters” that dominate this evocative story are the vastness of the countryside of an unnamed Western state and the harshness of nature, both vividly rendered. The novel is filled with adventures both large and small, as well as moments of high drama and discovery, which successfully drive the plot forward.

While not designated as a young adult offering, it features skilled line drawings throughout and would make an excellent novel for adolescents. Its heady mix of elements showing a couple battling and ultimately winning against adversity should also appeal to adult readers looking for lots of action and an encouraging story about human perseverance.

Also available as an ebook.

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