Ouida Sebestyen Zena Sutherland - Essay

Zena Sutherland

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Salty [hero of Far from Home] was thirteen. He had no idea who his father was; his mother (a mute woman) was dead, as were his grandparents; he lived alone with his great-grandmother and they were facing eviction. He took the note his mother had left, telling him to go into town to the home of Tom and Babe Buckley…. [It develops that] Tom is his father and that the fact must be kept from Babe, who has had many miscarriages and who is loved and protected by her husband. This is not a childlike story, but should have some of the same kind of appeal that [Harper Lee's] To Kill a Mockingbird has had to many adolescent and pre-adolescent readers: a vividly created microcosm of society, an abundance of sentiment without sentimentality, and a protagonist who is drawn with compassionate percipience. All of the characters are drawn in depth, in a moving story in which several of them change believably in response to the others. For some it develops that the boarding house can never be a home; for Salty, once he accepts the limitations that Tom puts on their relationship, it becomes a home. While Salty is the only child in the story, he is the focal point; in him are the passion for justice, the need for love and security, and the need to identify and belong that all children feel. A fine novel.

Zena Sutherland, in a review of "Far from Home," in Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, Vol. 34, No. 1, September, 1980, p. 21.