It's 1943 and eleven-year-old Les MacGregor is thinking of running away. He's sick of his parents, who are always fighting, and his three horrible brothers - perfect James, bitter Charlie and annoying Johnny - the youngest and a total pest. With his parents focused on their own problems, Les has plenty of time on his own to do what he wants. After being ostracized thanks to the school bully, Les spends time dissecting a dead cat in his secret science lab, scaling the attic roof, and tapping phone lines, which seems like a great idea until the FBI comes calling. It's time for Les to go, so he plans his escape.
While the family gathers at the station to ship his oldest brother off to war, Les figures it's the perfect time to hop a train and go on a grand adventure. After all, there's nobody looking, right?
Les is a middle child in this young adult fiction based in the WWII era. His parents struggle with personal and addiction issues, and Les and his brothers are left to fend for themselves. Les' favorite place to hide is in his secret lab where he can experiment and stay out of his parents' arguments. His dream is to escape and live in a family that gets along. When he finally escapes, along with his little brother, to his grandparents home, he gets a taste of what living within a loving family feels like.
This is a definite coming-of-age tale. Les and his brothers all experience the ravages of a particularly dysfunctional family life. Although this is geared for the young adult genre, it is well written and I enjoyed reading about a simpler time. It has a certain innocence about it, and poignant reminders of the fears of that era, especially regarding the young men fighting in the war. It deals with alcoholism in a way that doesn't judge the disease, but paints a true picture of the possible damage to a family. Among the dysfunction, you see glimpses of hope and love in supporting characters. You also watch a family be transformed, one by one, and learn to live beside each other.
A very enjoyable novel.