Friday, April 15, 2022

The Einsteins of Vista Point

Guterson, Ben. The Einsteins of Vista Point
April 12th 2022 by Christy Ottaviano Books
ARC Provided by Young Adult Books Central

Zack's family is reeling from the death of his younger sister, Susan, in an unexpected car crash at the fair. His parents decide to move the family from the city to the small town of Vista Point, where they have decided to run a bed and breakfast after the father quits his job as an architect and the mother drops out of teacher training at college. Their new home is out in the country, and Zack and his older sisters Ruth (13) and Miriam (15), as well as older brother Ethan, enjoy exploring. One thing they find is a building they call the Tower, an ornate and mysterious place that has been abandoned for years. While there, Zack meets Ann, who says she lives with her mother, a waitress. Ann is nine, the same age as Susan, and even looks a bit like Zack's sister. The parents are deep in renovations on the house, so the children are able to spend time at a swimming hole, explore abandoned cabins, and tromp through the woods. At one point, someone named Horatio Curvallo shows up in a frenzied state, and tells the family that there are zoning regulations that prohibit businesses on the property, which he claims was stolen from him years previously. The Bigelows, who have been in the area over forty years, are able to shed some light on the man's plight, but assue the family it isn't a problem. The children do research into the area, and find that the Tower was a "comfort station", built in 1895 by Orlando Wetherill. It needs a "charm" to be said to avert bad things in the area, and the children try to crack the code, which is rather cryptically laid out in the building. They make some progress, but Zack has an even bigger mystery when parts of Ann's story don't make sense. Will the family be able to heal from their recent bereavement and construct a new life for themselves?

Vista Point is an intriguing setting, and I loved how the Bigelows and other long time residents were brought into the story to provide the intriguing background information about the house and Tower. There is a fair amount of interesting code and clues that the have to process in order to be able to make the "charm" work. Curvallo's background has a bit of history to it, with the Vietnam war, and his loss echoes the Einstein's. It has a rather surprising resolution that I don't want to spoil. 

The family dynamics are very interesting. The family is close knit, and the parents, despite being busy with the bed and breakfast plans, are involved in the children's lives. They celebrate their Jewish culture every day rituals. They are all dealing with their grief in different ways, but don't talk very much about Susan. Zack, being closest in age, misses her the most, and struggles to get the help he needs in processing his loss. This is a realistic depiction of grief, and it's good to see that his needs are eventually addressed. At one point, he asks to go back to the fair where Susan was killed. Everyone else is appalled, but it makes sense to him to visit the last place he has memories of his sister. 

The clues and mystery makes this a great choice for readers who liked Beil's 2022 The Wreck at Ada's Reef, and the scene at the pond made me think of Enright's The Four-Story Mistake (1942) so strongly that I half expected Cuffy to have lunch waiting when the children returned home! Readers who love summer stories rich with family details, like Glaser's The Vanderbeekers series or Birdsall's The Penderwicks will be glad to make the acquaintance of the Einsteins.              
 I had some trouble believing that running a B&B would provide enough income for a large family with several children approaching college age. It also was odd that the family would give up their entire life because one child died. That doesn't seem like something many people would do. I have opinions on the treatment of grief in middle grade literature, though, especially when it concerns grieving parents.

Ms. Yingling

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like an interesting story. I would've thought the parents would be more controlling and not let them explore through the woods. Going to add this to the TBR