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January 09 , 2011

A Hundred Days from Home


An adolescent boy struggles with the loss of one friendship and the flowering of a new one.

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The mouth of the basin had washed away so that the pool had emptied with the runoff from the storm, but the tree still stood, now taller than Elam, the center of a sandy bowl.

Elam's mouth dropped open in surprise. Irises had shot up, crowding the edges of the bowl, their green, spear-like leaves reaching toward the sun. And they were in full bloom, their blues and purples reflecting the depth of the sky overhead.

"It's . . . it's not possible," he said. "It's not."

"It's magic," whispered Refúgio.

Elam loves the wilderness of the mountains where he lives. He doesn't want to move to the Arizona desert, but his father thinks he needs a change. Ever since his best friend drowned in a river accident, Elam has been a loner.

After the move Elam explores the desert alone, unwilling to befriend the neighboring kids. The dry brown earth makes him long for the lush green of home. But in the parched landscape he discovers something unexpected: a river where no water should be. There he meets Refúgio, who also seems to be a loner. Drawn together by a shared love of wildlife, the two forge a tentative friendship. Slowly Elam begins to let go of the guilt and pain from his friend's death, and of his longing to return to the mountains.

Randall Wright's stunning first novel is a beautiful and deeply moving exploration of the aftermath of loss and the healing power of nature.

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