Can love overcome all obstacles?
Mar 05, 2016 | 1793 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“Orbiting Jupiter” by Gary T. Schmidt
“Orbiting Jupiter” by Gary T. Schmidt
view slideshow (2 images)
Laura Stevenson
Laura Stevenson
slideshow
“Orbiting Jupiter” by Gary T. Schmidt, 2015

Jackson Hurd (that’s Jack, not Jackie) is the son in a fourth-generation farm family two miles from Eastham, Maine. His parents are soft-spoken, well-educated, pacifistic, and, according to Mrs. Stroud of Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services, the best foster parents she knows. They and Jack are the last resort of Joseph Brook, a 13-year-old sent to the juvenile detention center Stone Mountain for trying to kill a teacher. His experiences there (and previously, with his abusive father) have left him silent, afraid of being touched, and instantly traumatized if anybody stands behind him. Oh, and he has a three-month-old daughter named Jupiter, whom he is legally prevented from seeing.

Joseph arrives, sullen, unspeaking, defensive – but the Hurds’ cows like him, which in Jack’s opinion shows that he can be trusted. As Jack’s wonderfully understated narrative reveals, Joseph can indeed be trusted to be decent, precociously intelligent – and to reject any behavior that doubts his capacity to love his daughter, as he loved her mother. Jack supports Joseph whole-heartedly; in matters large and small, he “has Joseph’s back.” Unfortunately, some of the behavior that keeps Joseph from his daughter is a legal tangle that even a sympathetic social worker and Jack’s supportive parents have trouble unraveling. To 12-year-old Jack, as to Joseph, the issue is simple. What can a 13-year-old do for his baby? “He can love her.” The strength of this very powerful novella lies in its capacity to convince the reader that the two boys are right. That love can overcome all obstacles. That given the Hurds’ support, Jupiter and her father might be united under their watchful care. That, in short, the world is just.

Generally speaking, books with 12-year-old narrators are marketed as middle-grade fiction; the issue of early-teen pregnancy may push this book into young adult category.

In fact, however, this is a book for adults. It begs for compassion and understanding. Its voice is pitch perfect. The descriptions of the freezing Maine winter, juxtaposed with Joseph’s gradual thawing, are beautifully done. It’s a heartbreaking read that is bound to stay with readers of any age long after the book is closed.

“Orbiting Jupiter ” is available through Wilmington’s Pettee Memorial Library, Dover Free Library, Whitingham Free Public Library or Bartleby’s Books in Wilmington.

Laura Stevenson lives in Wilmington, and her most recent novels, “Return in Kind” and “Liar From Vermont,” are both set in Wilmington.

Comments
(0)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet


Comment Policy

In an effort to promote reasoned discussion, transparency, and integrity in online commenting, The Deerfield Valley News requires anyone posting comments to identify themselves using their real name. Anonymous commenting will not be allowed. All comments will be subject to approval before posting, and may take up to 24 hours for approval to be granted.

We encourage civil discourse among readers, and ask that they be willing to stand behind their identities and their comments. No personal harassment or hate speech will be tolerated. Please be succinct and to the point. For longer comments, please consider submitting a letter to the editor instead. It will appear in both the print and online editions.

All comments will be reviewed, and we reserve the right to reject, edit or remove any comment for any reason. For questions or to express concerns feel free to contact our office at (802) 464-3388.