This is a story of survival. It begins in 1936, when the hero, 7-year old Cid Wymann, an abused, home-schooled boy, lives with his stern, abusive grandmother and his violent, alcoholic, equally abusive father. Cid survives in the dream world of movies. He especially loves Errol Flynn’s swashbucklers. Cid’s mother died during his birth, and his father never forgave him. Soon after the story begins, Cid’s father disappears, and he gains a little freedom, just enough to bond with two neighborhood kids, Tomik and Siggy. The disappearance of his father became an economic disaster for Cid and his grandmother. Unable to face the consequences of their pending eviction, Cid’s grandmother kills herself. Siggy Braun’s family takes Cid in, until Mr. Braun loses his job. Then the Brauns move to Baltimore without Cid. After six years in an orphanage, a long lost English cousin, Lefty Leftingsham, finds Cid and takes custody of him. Lefty is a survivor of World War I and a mustard gas attack that has left him horribly disfigured and in constant pain. There is an instant bonding between the two cousins. Lefty understands Cid better than Cid does himself. He arranges for Cid to have lessons from Varvarinski, an alcoholic Russian fencing master, also a survivor. Thus begins a symbiotic relationship among three survivors.
This is Lunievicz’s debut novel, a work of young adult fiction. It is well-written, and while the plot has some violence, it is not gratuitous and furthers the plot. The reader cheers for the likable young hero in his fencing competitions and also in his efforts to overcome obstacles that might defeat many adults.