Back Home (Secondhand Summer)

Written by Dan L. Walker
Review by B. J. Sedlock

A sequel to Secondhand Summer, the title refers to 15-year-old Sam Barger’s brother returning to Alaska from fighting in Vietnam in 1968.  Sam is still adjusting to the death of his father, and he’s not sure what to think of Joe’s drinking, refusal to talk about his experiences, and his night terrors.  And when Sam is influenced by a girl at school to join antiwar protests, it causes friction between the brothers.  Sam’s teen angst comes to a head, and to get away, he hitches a ride to the family’s old cabin in the woods.  Joe turns up, perhaps in an attempt to make amends, but a rash action on Sam’s part creates a crisis, and he must act to save Joe’s life.

Young readers will identify with Sam and learn about 1960s social life, such as veterans returning home to a lack of appreciation, fueled by peace movements; details of Sam’s job at a pizza parlor; and getting into trouble for fighting at a school dance.  Sam is a good kid trying to find his feet in a confusing world; his character is the most fully realized.   I had not read the previous volume but did not have trouble getting into the story without that.  Back Home will appeal to young adult readers, those interested in an Alaskan setting, and fans of bildungsroman stories.  Recommended.