"Sometimes the most difficult things in life make the best memories."
Under the Heavens is a powerful coming-of-age story. The idea of a young person spending a summer on a farm- out of their typical environment, close to the good earth and its rhythms, finding peace and perspective in the cycle of harvest and toil, it is a great beginning for a story.
And this story delivers.
A summer- the whole three months- spent with step-family in Amish country? Oh no. Lenny wants no part of that. Nothing about the Amish lifestyle intrigues or inspires him... until he watches two glorious black draft horses pull a bogged down tractor free of the mire.
Those horses, flesh and blood and bone and breath, were like nothing he had ever seen.
And from there we have our tale.
The writing caught my imagination right from the first-chapter scene of a drenching rain and a massive thunderstorm. Thomas Nye knows how to write so that you join his characters in the moment. You can hear the thunder's avalanche, see the smooth clouds, and the mist is wet on your face.
As Lenny stands in the barn, watching the sky pour down on the fields, he cannot imagine why he is even here, but even then something is drawing him.
Lenny's Grandfather, who always calls him "Leonard," spoken in a gentle and reassuring way, who trusts Lenny with the job of Horse Boy and trains him to care for the draft team.
The work he does with Tug and Train, the horses who touch a place inside his heart.
Lenny's first innocent crush on Amish maiden Leah, and the fun of volleyball at dusk and working in the sunshine filling up the haymow together.
Lenny's wonderings about his own father whom he never met.
It's all here.
This would make a great read aloud with kids.
Thank you Bookcrash for my review copy of Under the Heavens.
Thomas Nye, moved to a rural community in Iowa when he was nineteen. His first acquaintances happened to be an Amish family, and they took him to visit Amish Church, Singings and Volleyball games. Over the past two decades, he has owned draft horses, which were acquired from local Amish farmers. Through these neighbors, he learned to work with horses in harness. Almost a time-traveler, Thomas visits the 1800's when with his Amish neighbors; returning to the modern world when at work as a letter carrier in Iowa City, Iowa. A natural-born story teller, he intertwines his own life experiences into his writing.