The Runaway

Written by Glen Huser
Review by Eileen Charbonneau

The summer of 1923 finds Leroy “Doodlebug” Barnstable at a “topsy-turvy” crossroads in his young life. Orphaned at the age of 14, he goes to live with relatives who abuse him. Before long he ventures off on his own, joining a traveling Chautauqua tent show bound for Ashville, Ohio – offering a “week-long extravaganza of entertainment and educational enlightenment.”

Doodlebug finds a generous new family in the performers and crew, and makes himself indispensable due to his portrait skills and performing and teaching abilities. He finds first love in the person of Maggie, and faces the envy of stagehands and the pursuit of his uncle, who wants him brought back into servitude. A fiery conflagration brings all the plot elements together and tests Leroy’s courage.

This first-person account by a good-hearted hero is the perfect guide through a charming and little-known piece of Americana. The style is plainsong poetry, and the story both evocative and heartrending. Highly recommended.