In 1906, twelve-year-old, imaginative Violet Black is very lonely. Her mother and brother have left their Michigan home, and Violet doesn’t know where they have gone. Her father is immersed in a project, and Violet is left much on her own. So when she unearths an artifact on the lakeshore, it is no surprise that she feels a special bond to the copper hand. The discovery leads to an archeological dig and much discussion about ownership of the artifacts. Violet stubbornly keeps her copper hand, even making a replica when the original is discovered. She thinks she can use the hand to bring her family back together. But, when other more serious events transpire, Violet fears she has unleashed a dangerous magic, and she isn’t sure what to do.
As the story gently unravels, readers discover that Violet’s mother is half-Native American, which brings to light a number of issues relating to culture, race, and class. Violet mainly struggles with acceptance, becoming a woman, and understanding the prejudices of the community. It was a bit disappointing to discover there are no fantasy elements in this story, and that the copper hand was just a coping mechanism for Violet. But, there were interesting parts to the plot, and good life lessons that Violet learns. This is most certainly a coming-of-age story, and best suited for readers 10-12.