I’ve grown accustomed to buying and disliking Newbery Medalists, so I was resigned to the inevitable. Imagine my surprise when I actually liked The Loner!
He’s always been an outsider, a loner. He had never known a mother or father, a home, or even a name. He was just ‘Boy’ who hitched rides from state to state picking whatever crop was in season. No one had ever welcomed him. No one had ever loved him.
Then came the day that the woman and her dog, Jup, rounded him in while they were out herding their sheep. She, a large woman, is known simply as ‘Boss’. She invites him to stay with her for a while and help out with herding the sheep, but insists that he choose a name by flipping open the Bible and pointing his finger at the page. The name he pointed to was David, keeper of the sheep.
David soon learns that not all has been smooth in Boss’s path, either. She suffered the loss of her son, Benn, just a few years ago – he was mauled by a grizzly bear, the same grizzly bear that she is now determined to hunt down and kill. Will her desire for revenge endanger her entire herd? And has David finally found his place – among the sheep?
David is a boy who has never known the love – or discipleship – of parents. His approach to life is entirely pragmatic – do what you do to get what you can get and keep yourself alive.
Boss is a woman who has never been good at expressing her emotions verbally, and who has become even more reticent since the loss of her son, Ben.
When these two come together, two needs are met – David’s need for a mother; a person to love him, and Boss’s need for a dependent; someone for her to take care of. She trains him to be a good sheepherder and he gives her the vibrancy of young life. Throughout the story their relationship grows and by the end of the book they are firmly attached to each other.
When David chooses David to be his name, he wants to know as much as possible about his namesake. So, Boss reads the stories of David out loud to David and he soaks them in. He often compares himself to the David of the Bible and wonders what he would do in particular circumstances.
Through silence, David tells a lie, of which he later repents.
David and Boss celebrate Christmas.
Conclusion. An excellent story which features a sympathetic protagonist and demonstrates positive relational growth.
Review © 2013 Laura Verret