Top critical review
Reviewed in the United States on May 6, 2019
My goodness what a criminal justice system that sentences a first-time offender to a year and a half sentence ("you're going to be thirsty for the next 18 months" p. 15) at a juvenile penal facility work camp! Really? Where they dig holes all day seven days a week! No wonder kids grow up thinking the justice system is unfair. Books like these are not helping. I got the book because it had the shiny gold sticker on the front and got great reviews. I got it for my ten-year-old but he didn't want to read it so I read it.
Can an entire lake ("the largest lake in Texas" p. 15) dry up in one person's lifetime? Kissing Kate Barlow was a school teacher, already an adult when the lake was full, then as an older adult she is burying treasure in the middle of its dry basin. I'm just sayin. Oh and Trout Walker catches up to her and Sam with a motor boat. Yet years later she's robbing stagecoaches! A bit anachronistic.
Why did Stanley feel he had to lie in his letters to home and make it sound like he was water skiing and having fun when really he was in a slave camp? The explanation is that they wanted to "pretend". Perhaps adults just shouldn't read this book.
Stanley just HAPPENS to be sentenced to dig a whole and he just HAPPENS to find a treasure from an ancestor in an area only 5ft by 5ft within the first few days, and it HAPPENS to have his name on the suitcase? And his new friend just HAPPENS to be the guy that stole the sneakers that put him there! And they survive on the very onions that Sam used to grow. and the "fabulous spiced peaches" (p. 101) of Katherine Barlow! I realize the author is trying to force a circle but it's just not realistic.
A word about Sam whom we learn about in chapter 25. Apparently he was well-respected, "nobody argued with Sam" he ran a successful onion-growing business and the townspeople would come to him for onion remedies. Even the town doctor used Sam's onion-cure for baldness. He was a valued carpenter as well. Yet all it took was a kiss ("it's against the law for a negro to kiss a white woman" p.113) for all hell to break lose: the school house is burned down, a donkey is shot, and Sam is to be hung on a rope without a trial apparently. With kids growing up with stories like these, it's no wonder we don't make much progress.
Why were the guards so loyal to the sadistic Warden? Were they going to get a share of a treasure whose only proof of existence was family lore? And of course all these juvenile delinquents are so nice and don't even curse. I'm sure they were all innocent like Stanley and Zero. Even the car thief "Twitch" was innocent, his criminal record justified as the result of some kind of medical condition: "I never plan to steal one...I'll just start twitching" p. 145.
Katherine Barlow was a respected school teacher. After Sam kisses her, Sam is then murdered for the "crime" in front of her. She never recovers from the shock. She turns into the "famous outlaw" Kissing Kate Barlow, who leaves a lipstick mark on her murder victims and one victim is Stanley's ancestor whom she leaves stranded in a desert to suffer and die. In short, she goes insane. Why is there not more outrage from women readers at this demeaning narrative? A woman who cannot rise up and overcome the lost love of a man, but rather dwells in the same moment for the rest of her life (Mrs. Havisham?), re-enacting the kiss on dead corpses like some necrophiliac! Yes, it's really quite disturbing the more you think about it.