Review – A Diamond In The Desert

I discovered author Kathryn Fitzmaurice when I participated in a blog tour for her debut novel The Year The Swallows Came Early. Because of that review, I had the opportunity to read Kathryn’s upcoming release A Diamond In The Desert.

Her two books could hardly be more different from one another. The first features a girl protagonist, the newest, a boy. The first takes place in a small sea coast town in Southern California, the second, on an Arizona Indian reservation away from pretty much everything. Swallows is about forgiveness and looking past exteriors to what’s going on inside a person, Diamond is about choices and consequences. The first is a contemporary, the second a historical.

The thing the two books have in common is their talented author who writes beautifully in both. Kathryn’s words color the story, each laden with emotion. It’s hard to explain. Poetic? Yes, but not in a burdensome way with long passages of description or lines written to be admired for their own sake, not in an over-dramatized way where symbols aren’t first the objects the story needs them to be. Perhaps the best way to explain is by letting the writing speak for itself.

Tetsu’s father has been taken into custody shortly after Pearl Harbor because he is a leader in the Japanese-American community. Tetsu, his sister, and mother have been moved to the Gila River internment camp. They gave most of their things away, including their dog, because camps didn’t take dogs. Shortly after they arrived, they got a letter from the man who had taken their Lefty, saying the dog had run away.

And Kimi said, “Lefty’s making his way back to our old house.”

And we all agreed that’s what he was doing.

For the rest of the day, we reminded each other that Lefty was going home. And it was enough to keep us moving.

But I kept thinking that when Lefty got there, I wouldn’t be there to fill his water dish or take the thorns out of his paws that he’d get when he ran through the boxwood along the highway. I wouldn’t be there to pull foxtails from his fur.

It was Kimi who taught Lefty to shake. After Papa brought him home, five pounds of short-haired black-and-white spots, a country mutt. No matter how many times she tapped his right paw, he lifted his left. Because he was a lefty.

I told Kimi he was like Lefty O’Doul, left fielder, left-haned batter, left-handed thrower.

Nothing anyone can do to change a lefty.

In such a short segment we learn so much about the characters, in particular that Tetsu knows baseball. Little surprise, then, when baseball becomes a focal point of the story.

Here are a few of my favorite lines:

    And when the sun was rising up after breakfast, and the smell of summer blew in strong, sometimes I’d see my old team.
    “It’s all my fault,” I said, each word a flash of lightning tearing apart our sky.
    There were no words between us.

    But there was plenty being said by our twisted hands, and our stiff shoulders, and our silence.

    I felt life rush in and out of my lungs.
    Papa walked slow enough to give me room to talk if I wanted.

I could keep on. The language is simple but profound. The voice seems so realistic for a young boy having to grow up too soon.

This is a book that will capture you quickly and hold onto you until the end.

I highly recommend this story for anyone who likes to read. This one may be marketed for middle graders, but it is no less for adults. It shows historical things all of us need to read; it causes us to think about the consequences of our choices — something that is timeless and universal.

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