Summer of the Star

Written by Johnny D. Boggs
Review by Ellen Keith

In the summer of 1873, Madison “Mad Carter” MacRae is sixteen, earning money on a cattle drive from Texas to Kansas to help his widowed mother. He’s not as saintly as that sounds; he wants to get out of the house and away from his siblings. Mad Carter recounts this tale as an old man with a wry, knowing perspective on his younger self, but he’s also a good enough storyteller to let events unfold without foreshadowing. And what events they are! Not only does he meet Estrella, the “star” of the summer, but he faces corrupt lawmen (along with one honest one) and witnesses the hostility of Kansans towards Texans.

Boggs writes with such a distinctive voice for Mad Carter that I couldn’t help but root for him, despite the mistakes he makes. The hardship of the cattle trail, the saturation of the market once they get to Kansas, making for a long, anxious summer waiting on a good price—all of these elements add to the realism of the story. This was a far more poignant read than I expected.