Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 14 to 18
- Grade: 9 to 12
A teenaged pacifist and a PTSD-afflicted Marine form an unexpected bond over a secret buried in a decommissioned nuclear missile silo.
Twyla Jane Lee has one goal. To finish senior year so she can get out of her military hometown of Halo, Montana. But to graduate, she needs to complete forty hours of community service, and that means helping out a rude and reclusive former Marine named Gabriel Finch.
A young veteran of the conflicts in the Middle East, Gabriel spends his days holed up in a decommissioned nuclear missile silo on his family farm. Twyla assumes he’s just another doomsday prepper, readying his underground shelter for Armageddon. But soon she finds out the truth, and it takes her breath away.
Gradually the two misfits form a bond, and Twyla begins to unearth the secrets that have left the Marine battling ghosts. Her discoveries force her to question her views on the wars until she realizes that even if she gets out of Halo, she won’t ever be able to leave Gabriel Finch’s story behind her.
Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:
Describe how a particular story's or drama's plot unfolds in a series of episodes as well as how the characters respond or change as the plot moves toward a resolution.
About the author
Nina Berkhout is originally from Calgary. She is the author of five poetry collections, most recently Elseworlds and Arrivals and Departures, which was a finalist for the 2011 Archibald Lampman Award for the year’s best poetry by a writer living in the national capital region. Her work has also been shortlisted for THIS Magazine’s Great Canadian Literary Hunt and the John Hirsch Award for most promising Manitoba writer. Berkhout holds a degree in Classical Studies from the University of Calgary and a Master’s in Museum Studies from the University of Toronto. She now lives in Ottawa.
Excerpt: The Mosaic (by (author) Nina Berkhout)
Gabriel Finch’s longish hair was fair like his mother’s. He was scruffy and less bulky than I’d imagined. Younger looking, too, with dark circles under his eyes. Even so, he had an intense gaze that went straight through me when he gave me a half-second glance.
He put a hand on my elbow and led me to the middle of the space.
“Wait here,” he told me. The silence and pitch black was dizzying. I stumbled, trying to keep balanced.
There was a loud click then, like the sound of Hawthorn’s football stadium lights going on. My eyes were drawn to the spot of brightness, where Gabriel stood by a big rectangular light on a tripod. He’d set these up in a circle around the circumference of the space and he began switching them on one by one.
My gasp echoed back at me as I followed the light washing over the dome.
With this moving novel of self-discovery, Berkhout offers a mindful, timely reminder about the perils of blind faith and the power of change.
Berkhout spins an ambitious and sophisticated tale … A rich and jumbled mix of war and peace by an author to watch.
Berkhout sensitively examines the loyalties we have to our ideals, to each other, and to our country.
School Library Journal
Berkhout’s prose has a maturity that respects her readers and also underlies the seriousness of this compelling novel.
Readers will be pushed to consider Twyla and Gabriel's disparate views on war, their divergent life paths, and the common ground that unites them in this timely, heartfelt coming-of-age story.
Berkhout creates a cinematic feel with her evocative language and scene setting.
Quill & Quire