The Buried Book is told through the eyes of 9-year-old Jasper who has just been abandoned by his mother on his uncle’s farm outside Detroit. Jasper doesn’t understand why his mom has run off. Snippets of conversations he overhears in the barn or in town lead him to believe his mother might be dead. While adapting to farm life and trying to glean more hints about his mother’s disappearance, Jasper discovers his mother’s teenage diary in an abandoned house on his uncle’s property. This book only raises more questions than it answers, and Jasper is determined to find out what happened to his mother. He finds that his mom has gotten mixed up with some bad people (drug smugglers, gamblers, and bootleggers), and now the bad guys are after him, too.
Pulley has done her research. Set in the rural 1950s, many stories of farm life are interspersed into Jasper’s adventures. This made for an extremely entertaining but tense story, as everywhere Jasper turned he was running into trouble. This book is not just a linear mystery tale – this is a family saga, a story of fugitives, a story of the mistreatment of Native Americans at the hand of shady law enforcement, and the tale of a little boy trying to understand the world of adults. I appreciated how deftly Pulley was able to use historical fact in her story without being pedantic or heavy-handed. There are so many elements at work, and yet, Pulley weaves them into a cohesive narrative that left me flipping the pages to find out what happened next. The chapter titles are written as police investigator interrogatives, which hints at what’s to come.
This story was engrossing with just enough breaks in the story to allow the reader to catch a breath. Recommended.
Many thanks to Netgalley and Lake Union Publishing for providing this advance copy.