God’s Kingdom

Written by Howard Frank Mosher
Review by Eileen Charbonneau

Northern Vermont in the 1950s is the setting for this coming-of-age novel by one of America’s most gifted storytellers. Young Jim Kinneson – curious, resourceful, and dutiful – is the perfect narrator of both his and his family’s adventures, which stretch back to before the American Revolution.

The Kinnesons are a mix of early peoples of the area that borders French Canada. They played a role in early conflicts with the Abenaki people and the Underground Railroad. It is a place that mixes kindness and cruelty, where a thriving African-American community is both tolerated and falls victim to a Ku Klux Klan massacre. Generations of menfolk hunt and fish and play baseball, hockey, and basketball together. They eat lunches packed by loving mothers, while spite-filled teachers bully children to death and bury trunks of grisly secrets under stairways. Outsiders don’t fare well, despite the general decency of Jim and his immediate family.

Planted in Jim’s own growing-up is the dawning knowledge of a family secret, skillfully seeded into the narrative, which may lead the reader to thumb through the pages again for missed clues. While the men are carefully shaded with rich inner lives, the women tend toward the less actualized or archetypal. Told in episodic and lyric style, this novel is both intimate and a family saga, vignette and epic. God’s Kingdom shines a light on a corner of America that illuminates the whole.