So, here is the first book I read on the plane yesterday. I adore Kimberly Willis Holt, so I snatched this ARC from the Holt booth knowing it would be lovely and wonderful. It was.
Amos Kinkaid never knew is birth mother who died in childbirth. He has barely known his father since Jake prefers trapping beaver to staying home. So, Amos is left with Gil, Jake's brother, and his wife Rebecca. Gil is a minister working with the Otoe, a Native American tribe. When an outbreak of the pox devastates the town, Rebecca is one of the few to try to help the Otoe. She pays for this kindness with her own life. Eventually, Jake returns with a Shoshone wife, and takes Amos with him as they travel west to Oregon.
This is a novel first and foremost about family. Who counts as family? What does it take to be a family? Does someone have to have blood relationship to be family? All of this is considered through the eyes of Amos, first as a child and later as a boy and a young man. Themes of love and prejudice and purpose in life are also explored but never at the expense of knowing Amos and those he loves.
Because this is Holt, the language sings off the pages. I particularly loved the bird lore and imagery and the "ghost" of Amos' birth mother. Due in May 2010 from Holt.