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IN HIS FATHER’S FOOTSTEPS
He should have been back by now. He said he would return by the next full moon. Eight days had come and gone. His father was never this late.
Jason Sharman stared up at the October sky. The only light came from the pale first quarter-moon that shimmered and quivered in the indigo darkness. Folklore bestowed the moon with magical gifts, personified it, gave it life. Right now, Jason wished it did have special powers. He wished the moon could speak, could give him the answers he needed, tell him the path he needed to take. But first you had to believe, believe in the myths, believe in the magic, and Jason didn’t. He didn’t believe in magic, or myths or anything else he couldn’t see or touch.
Where are you, Dad? In all the years you’ve been prospecting, you’ve never been more than two or three days late. Did something happen to you? Is the panning for gold so good you decided to stay longer?
The moon remained silent. Jason turned away in disgust.
He thought of his father as invincible. He didn’t remember ever seeing him sick. At six-foot-three and two hundred and thirty pounds of muscle and brawn, his father cut an awe-inspiring figure. And yet, despite his towering stature, he spoke softly, never raising his voice.
Morley Sharman displayed all things a hunter should be–cautious, vigilant, tenacious. He routinely checked and cleaned his equipment, especially his rifle. At home, he never left the rifle loaded, keeping it locked in a gun cabinet. In the same strict way his father lived his life, he obeyed all the safety regulations for firearms. Surely nothing had happened to him.
Despite the cheerful face his mother pasted on, Jason saw how his father’s lateness affected her. But she refused to give voice to her fears. To speak of them might make them real. She kept to her normal routine, cooking their meals, cleaning the house, and making sure he and his brother looked after the animals. She swept and scrubbed the floors daily, constantly cleaning and fussing. Twice in the last few days, she baked shortbread cookies, his father’s favorite. She kept herself and her hands busy, anything to keep her mind from worrying.
As the days went by, it became harder and harder for her to cloak her fears. Jason knew her too well to miss the subtle signs. Her soft brown face, a face so used to smiling and laughing, had deep lines etched by the full lips. Her mouth was drawn and tight, and ridges had formed at the corners of her soft brown eyes. She wiped her brows as if she could erase the new wrinkles–wrinkles that grew deeper with each passing day. Her round face, looked thinner and hollows appeared in her cheeks. She looked as if she had aged ten years in the last few days.
Jason hadn’t heard her laugh in days. Even the antics of his younger brother, Thomas, and his baby sister, Chloe, brought only a brief smile. Jason found her quietness even more disturbing than the physical signs of her stress. He tried to draw her out, tried to get her to tell him her concerns, but her fears remained unspoken.
She painted on a bright smile. “Your father’s fine. The prospecting is good. Maybe, he’ll bring home so much gold he won’t have to leave for the rest of the winter.” She laughed and ruffled his hair.
Jason saw through the merry smile. Her voice had lost its joyous ring and her eyes clouded over as she turned away. She used a corner of the dishcloth to wipe at her eyes. He watched her cross to the cupboard, and pull down canisters of flour and sugar. “That must be it, Mom.” Jason forced a grin.
“I’m going to make fresh cookies," she said.
He didn’t mention the cookie jar already overflowed. She needed to keep busy. She needed to make another batch of her husband’s favorite shortbread cookies. She needed to believe he’d be home to eat them soon. Jason needed to believe it too.
He remembered the day his father left. Though over a month ago, Jason heard his father’s words as if only yesterday. “Take care of the family while I’m gone. You’re becoming a man. You need to act like one.” Those were the last words his father had spoken to him. The last words he’d spoken to anyone before he followed the path behind their house, the path through the woods that led to the property where he and his brother had staked their mining claim.
Jason had been so happy that day. He’d felt grown up for his fourteen years, and burst with the pride his father felt in him. It made their disagreements over the past few months fade away. That day seemed so long ago. He felt lost and alone. He was not almost a man. His five-foot-six frame might be strong and muscular, but inside he remained a young boy in need of his father.
Where are you? Why haven’t you come home?
Anger rose as Jason thought of his mother and his younger siblings. How could you do this to us, Dad? You should be here to take care of us. I’ve been strong. I’ve worked hard while you were gone. I’ve done all the chores. I’ve kept the woodpile stocked, fed the animals, put rabbit and squirrel on the table. I’ve kept things going while you’ve been gone. Where are you now? This isn’t my responsibility. I don’t want to be in charge anymore.
A small tear tracked its way down his cheek, and slid into his mouth. Jason used the back of his hand to brush the next one away. Glaring up at the soft glow of the moon, he screamed a silent protest.
Fourteen-year-old Jason struggles to survive North Ontario and his own fears in his quest to find his father. But when he finds his injured father, his battles are not over. Is he strong enough to save his father and get them both back home?
KUDOS FOR IN HIS FATHER’S FOOTSTEPS
A sweet, heart-warming story about a fourteen-year-old boy who is forced to grow up fast—and how…In His Father’s Footsteps is a coming of age story about courage, desperation, love of family, and a young boy’s determination not to let fate take its course. It’s fairly short, so I could read it in one sitting, but it’s highly entertaining. A great read from an accomplished author. – Taylor, reviewer
In His Father’s Footsteps is touching and inspiring. It’s the story of a young boy’s quest to prove himself to his father and to himself….Irwin’s character development is superb as always, and her story has a ring of truth. I found myself fascinated with Jason’s adventure and felt like I was right there with him. –Regan, reviewer
Monica rated it 4 of 5 stars
This is a coming of age tale for Jason who lives in a rural area, and his family lives off the land. His father is late coming back from prospecting for gold, so Jason takes it upon himself to find him.
There are a number of outdoor activities that are bypassed or glossed over; however, this is not a survival or how-to book and the gruesome details, in some cases, are simply not needed for this sort of tale.
The characters are authentically written, though we primarily stay with and see through the eyes of Jason. The writing is crisp, vivid, and delightfully descriptive.
Overall, a fun read!
Angela rated it 5 of 5 stars
Jason and his father have been growing apart the last few years, but that doesn't mean that Jason isn't concerned when his Dad doesn't come home from a prospecting trip around the time he promised he would be back. Jason, being the eldest boy of 14 years old, knows it is up to him to make the trek to his Uncle's house to see if his Dad is there or if his Uncle has seen him. Jason figures if nothing else, his Uncle can then go with him to find his Dad. Surprise is the word when Jason gets to his Uncle's house and finds that he has a broken leg and can't help him at all. Jason must go it alone, a long and dangerous trek to his Dad's old cabin in the woods. He knows it will be a long and hard time of it, especially since he hasn't been there for years. He has the company of an old gold dog though. He seems to be following Jason, not too closely, but isn't too far off either. Jason is an animal lover and has a way with them, so he hopes to befriend the dog along the way too. Jason is put to the outdoors-man's test through his journey to the cabin that's for sure. Will he make it to the cabin to look for his Dad? Will his Dad be there and be okay? What will he do if things take a turn for the worst and he gets lost or hurt himself? How will he travel back home again?
This was a bit of a different read for me. It was a mystery, but in a wonder what will be the outcome, kind of way instead of a "who done it" way. I found it a refreshing, easy, and quite entertaining read. The descriptiveness used in the writing of this book is absolutely amazing, I felt like I was making the life threatening trek right beside Jason. I could feel the emotions of Jason through the writing also, it was as if I was part of him. I think all teens are like Jason at some point. Think they don't need parent time much because their friend time seems so much better, but in the end all teens learn that parent time may not be so bad after all. I picked up this book one night and read it until I just couldn't stay up any longer reading. Then I picked it up the next morning and didn't put it down until I had finished the book. I almost felt like the longer I took to read it, the longer Jason's journey would be. Silly, but because I felt like part of the journey, it's how I felt. The characters were great, even though you may not see much of some of them, they still are able to make an unforgettable impact on the reader. Also, because Jason is the main character and the one you follow the most, I left this book feeling like a best friend of his. He is such a brave boy, even though he isn't sure he can be. I also loved the character of Trapper, the shy and distrusting dog, that seems to take to Jason and wants to follow him to protect him in some way. As an animal lover myself, I can totally appreciate Jason's feelings about the dog and wanting to help him and feed him if he can. This was just a great read and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a quick and easy read that you just can't put down because it's so good. Once again this author amazed me and I am so glad I got to read this book!
Jan 04, 2014Michelle Randall rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: coming-of-age, e-book, reader-s-favorite
Reviewed for Reader's Favorite.
At some point in everyone's lives there came that time when we stopped looking to our parents as our idols and role models and started letting our friends be the bigger influence. In His Father's Footsteps is a tale of just that time in a young boys life. He has reached that age when the influences of school friends are making the life and lessons his father taught seem old fashioned and out of date. As the story progresses and Jason is called upon to track his father and bring him home, the skills and lessons his father taught him become the things that he must rely on the most. Bev Irwin does a wonderful job of twisting teenage angst and survival into a compelling adventure for children and teens of all ages.
The story is so easy to relate to because, at least as an adult we all can remember a time when we felt the same way. Our friends were more important and more knowledgeable than our parents. Bev Irwin does a wonderful job of blending those feelings with the struggles to find his father and bring him home. In his Father's Footsteps is heartwarming to adults and a lesson to teens. This book could be read by either and enjoyed. The coming of age story, the unique setting and adventure, make it captivating. It might not be all that long of a book, but I still couldn't put it down until I had finished it all. I wanted to see where the story went and how the relationship between father and son finally turned out.
Bev Irwin’s In His Father’s Footsteps, a boy’s wilderness adventure story, is a welcome change from the trendier types of teen fiction. I was predisposed to like this story because I grew up in northeastern Ontario, regularly visit family there, and know of teenagers like Jason who live on remote farms in the bush and bus to town schools. As the story opens, 14-year-old Jason Sharman, is worried about his father who has failed to return from a solitary prospecting expedition. His strong, powerful father is skilled at living off the land and supplements their income from their woodland farm in the “near north” part of Ontario by panning for gold on a claim he shares with his brother, George.
Jason decides that he and his Uncle George must go and find his father. Irwin, the author, gives very specific detail about the equipment Jason packs for camping out in autumn. The inclusion of green garbage bags and antibiotic cream indicate that the story takes place in the recent past. Since Jason’s uncle is injured and cannot come with him, Jason sets off into the bush with only a map. Fatigue, rough terrain, and potentially dangerous animals pose big challenges. A friendly yet wary dog accompanies Jason on his journey.
Throughout the novel, the author achieves a good balance between the lyrical and the practical. Descriptions of terrain and scenery and sightings of animals close up are alternated with productive activities such as fishing to supplement the rations brought from home.
Although Irwin brings “on stage” quite a few animals and hazards in a short period of time, their presence is more convincing than the contrived plot twists I’ve encountered in reading other contemporary teen novels. Jason’s endurance, skill and heroism are a result of his knowing survival skills, skills which young readers can learn if they wish. Youths raised on vampires, wizards and futuristic technology may be surprised to see what Jason can achieve with his “low tech” old-fashioned equipment. These days, with juvenile fiction dominated by speculative fiction, Irwin’s novel stands out for its realism.
The novel is presented in the third person from Jason’s point of view. Readers learn that recently there has been discord between father and son:
“Dad was angry Jason didn’t want to fish and hunt anymore. Dad had been his idol until he became a teenager and disillusionment had set in. Now Jason wanted him to be like the fathers of his friends in town.”
The rift between them intensifies Jason’s urge to find his dad. Wisely, at the end, Irwin does not make Jason renounce his contemporary interests and commit forever to a traditional life close to nature “in his father’s footsteps.” Instead, she shows Jason’s sense of achievement from practising the skills his father taught him, and the mutual love and respect between father and son.
A resident of Ottawa, ON, Ruth Latta is revising an historical novel for teenagers, The Songcatcher and Me, to be published in 2013. Her most recent novel, The Old Love and The New Love, is available from firstname.lastname@example.org.