I knew the name from the movie adaptations, so it peaked my interested when I picked up the book at the USC book fair in 2018. It cost me a whole dollar to purchase- complete with wafty scents of an old book on every page.
I thought, why not- the title Where The Red Fern Grows is such a good title I am going to read it. The cover art is also great and mysterious.
The perspective of a boy in the rural Ozark mountains is beautiful escapism. The descriptions of the country and the boys dogs caught my full attention. This is a story with descriptions only found from someone who’s been and raised there. As an adult living in Los Angeles this was a great education on dog hunting. I did not know this was a children’s book upon reading, and frankly didn’t cross my mind because I fully enjoyed the pace of the story and how everything unfolds smoothly.
How normal does this book make hunting? It seems that everyone is good at it and knows how to skin an animal. I am aware of where my food comes from yes, however this is a boy who just skins these animals in just a single sentence. It’s definitely a different time 100 years ago in the Ozarks than it is today.
The back of the book has a short summary that starts with- I kid you not “A loving threesome” well that etymology did not age well at all. A much different meaning than it did in 1961 or whenever this version was published. Another piece of the book that has not aged well is the word coons. I didn’t fully understand what it meant as I don’t recall one time the full spelling of racoons. Now I am aware of the derogatory term and the animal term, but I wanted to google it to be sure and when you google image search you get lots of fluffy cats.
The sappiness is what catches you off guard.The story is really melancholy and pretty sappy, the boy is crying at anything! He’s sad he cries, he’s happy he cries, it’s a lot of crying all around. I was expecting far more conflict throughout the story, which made me think of the TV shows and movies of the last 20 years, it feels like we have been in a time of negativity, every conflict, every misunderstanding, every dilemma is met with a hard lesson. In this book it was a nice break from the negativity of our time. What caught me off guard is when Billy has the accident with the pritchard boys, to me it seemed like it would become a massive problem, the family would want vengeance or have a whole different version of the story, well five pages later we don’t hear about it anymore! Just like that a death is brushed under the rug. Well that was unexpected because a story today would take it much more serious.
To be honest, the lack of conflict was one of the reasons why I breezed through the book and enjoyed the story so much, to have the kid win and enjoy life with his pups and be happy, its a break from the norm of today. Today it seems like so much writing and foreshadowing is focused on misery. A dystopian re-telling. A dark reboot. It’s so ingrained in film and TV today that we take it as granted, well personally it’s getting pretty tiresome. This is why it was hard to continue watching six feet under because it was so dark and depressing. Dark and sad stories are great and cathartic however there are just far too many of them today and to break from the normal and read this book was a good welcome change.
Do I recommend this book: Yes!