Review source: Library
Reviewed by: Kathy Davie
Series: McCray Family, 0.5
A prequel in the McCray Family fictional series about a dairy farming family in Kansas in 1962.
Do try to read this story before A Dog Named Christmas—-it'll just be a teeny bit less sad, although Kincaid has written it so that it isn't necessary---the prologue introduces how Tucker comes into the McCrays' neighborhood while the last chapter is a blend as George reminisces.
Oh god, I cried and cried. A story that was bittersweet with loss and love. George learns some powerful lessons this winter from his grandparents and his mother. Lessons that will hold him throughout his life. George's dad sounds like such a great guy.
Kincaid is a powerful storyteller, although not a great writer as far as his syntax goes. I did enjoy getting the dog's perspective for at least this short time in the prologue. This would have been a bit better if Kincaid had switched the first chapter with the prologue. But that's just nitpicking. I never did find a reason in this story why George is so anti-dog in the next. If anything, I would have thought he would embrace the idea of another dog.
The heart of the story is a series of blizzards that hit Kansas and Grandpa is responsible for clearing an eight-mile section, but he can't do it alone. And this is still a time when neighbor helps neighbor.
Part of what makes this story fit on either side of A Dog Named Christmas are the flashbacks as the adult George remembers how he felt that winter and now realizes how amazing his grandparents were.
It's certainly an exhausting tale of how much work is involved on a farm. Thank god for modern machinery! Although the old ways have their uses when the power is down. I certainly appreciated the McCrays' can-do attitude.
It's been six months of grief. Mourning for the son, husband, father who died in a freak accident. George's mother has moved back to Minnesota. His sisters are away at college, and George has opted to stay on at the McCray farm for the fall semester of school before he moves to Minnesota.
The summer and fall are months of healing and reflection. Of growing and learning.
It's Thorne's misfortunes that trigger Tucker's arrival at the farm as well as George's anger at having to care for the dog. At rules that keep breaking. At not knowing who will leave him next.
And Tucker is just what everyone needs, a reminder that life continues.
George McCray is thirteen in the main part of the story; I suspect the reminiscing portion is a year after A Dog Named Christmas. Grandma Cora and Grandpa Bo McCray are eking out a living with the family dairy farm. George's grandparents are amazing people. Never putting blame. Never attempting to use guilt to keep George on the farm, to replace the son they lost.
Tucker is an Irish setter inherited by some jerk when his grandfather died who then traded Tucker for some tractor repairs that Frank Thorne, the McCrays' alcoholic neighbor, did. I suspect Wild Tom Turner operates a still.
We get introduced to Mary Ann Stevens on the bus and after the Christmas play. Todd gets a brief mention as does Christmas and the Fishers. George's mother and sisters, Trisha and Hannah, show up for Christmas.
The cover has a red tone to the blowing snowscape with the lit-up barn in the background, George hauling the Christmas tree he's just cut down, and Tucker gazing mournfully up in the foreground.
The title is all about Christmas with Tucker.