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The Book of Samuel


The Book of Samuel

The freedom of summer is what any kid lives for, especially Samuel Gerard. While Samuel roams around on his bike, eats ice cream, and generally tries not to get in too much trouble, the world around him begins to change as the Mexicans move in and start taking over. Samuel and his best friends, Jonathan and Jesse, don’t take too kindly to these unwelcomed pests. Home life isn’t easy for Samuel, either. His father appears to have gone off the deep end and spends all day inside a canvas army tent in the backyard reading scripture from the Bible. Plus, there is Samuel’s live-in grandmother who hates everyone and lets them know it. Summer isn’t turning out exactly the way Samuel imagined.

BOOM! An explosion sets off a chain of events that slowly begin to spiral out of control. Samuel’s father investigates the cause of the explosion --- a gas leak --- and immediately has a revelation to leave home to preach against evil. The rest of the summer is filled with Samuel’s mother fighting against an emotional breakdown while struggling to maintain normalcy. Jonathan, Jesse and Samuel get into numerous fights with the Mexicans and plot revenge almost on a daily basis. Then grandma has a stroke and is forced into a nursing home. Samuel thinks that life couldn’t get any crazier --- except this is only the beginning.

Fatherless, Samuel begins a new school year. School appears to be the same until he starts noticing small, uninvited changes. The Mexicans’ invasion has spread to the school, and Samuel has a run-in with the school’s biggest bully, Saula Sobinski. Previously off of Saula’s radar, the altercation between the two will forever change their relationship.

The school year also brings another unexpected guest --- Samuel’s cousin, David. Up to this point, Samuel has always idolized David despite his detrimental upbringing and general resistance to authority. But after a few initial hiccups and confrontations, Samuel isn’t sure whether or not David is the father figure he needs so desperately in his life.

BOOM! More explosions force Samuel to stop and contemplate what is happening all around him. Jonathan and Jesse seem hell-bent on destroying the Mexicans, Saula Sobinski won’t leave him alone, and David has a violent streak that appears unstoppable. Samuel’s mother is holding on to her last bit of sanity, and his father remains absent. Samuel, just like his Bible counterpart, seems to have been sent for a higher purpose, but will he react in time to save his crumbling world? 

Erik Raschke reminds us what it’s like to be a kid. Even though Samuel is facing some complex life issues, Raschke doesn’t leave out the joys of childhood. Some of my favorite moments are when he talks back to his mom and reports on the questionable school assemblies. Samuel also enjoys his neighborhood, and Raschke doesn’t leave out any details, including the seemingly random names kids make up for hills, gulches, etc. Through it all, Samuel appears to handle everything with grace, and you never get the sense that he’s a lost or desperate soul. Be on the lookout for the numerous Bible references as they effectively complement the storyline.

Reviewed by Benjamin Boche on October 13, 2009

The Book of Samuel
by Erik Raschke

  • Publication Date: October 13, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
  • ISBN-10: 0312379692
  • ISBN-13: 9780312379698