Summary: After her mother gets married for the fifth time, seventeen year-old Dani thinks she will be spending the six weeks her mother is on her honeymoon by herself. But her mother springs a surprise on her: instead Dani will be spending the time with Sam, the uncle she never knew about. Although she could be angry about her mother keeping secrets from her, Dani opts for excitement over getting to know a new family member. Sam and Dani are two peas in a pod, enjoying an easy camaraderie right from the start. While on her vacation with Sam, Dani learns to ride a horse and starts a relationship with a local cowboy-type. Living in a trailer with Sam doesn’t offer a lot of space though, which is why Dani ends up stumbling over more secrets that will change her life forever.
Number of Pages: 177
Age Range: 13-14
Review: Truths I Learned from Sam by Kristin Butcher is a tricky read. Characters Dani and Sam are easy to love, the setting of the fictional town of Watts River is idyllic and the theme of the lengths we will go to for family is thought-provoking.
But Dani’s story seems to be a case of accepting the reality with which we are presented. At first Dani believes her mother is an only child. Then she learns she has an uncle who wants to see her and it doesn’t occur to her to question what conflict between him and his grandparents would be strong enough to keep them apart. As the story progresses, each time Dani learns something new that reveals a higher level of secrets and lies, she just seems to absorb it. Without question, and without anger. While I loved Dani as a character, I question whether what appeared to be the responses of an extremely well-adjusted teenager are actually signs of someone who has problems expressing her emotions. Will the anger over the deception simply come later?
I give kudos to Butcher though because while I did have to suspend my disbelief for the last part of the story, I still wanted to know what happens next. And this morning I found out from Dundurn Press the sequel, In Search of Sam is coming out in May. I have no idea where Butcher is going to take Dani and Sam’s story, but I know I want to find out.
“Books, like cooking, are something Sam and I both enjoy, which is a good thing since there are lots of books around. Even so, I make a point of choosing ones I know Sam has already read, so we can have our discussions. Sometimes we agree; sometimes we don’t. It doesn’t matter. It’s the exchange of ideas that counts, and I get totally stoked as my thoughts bubble up and overflow like a runaway chemistry experiment. The same thing happens to Sam. I can tell by the energy in his voice. Somewhere along the way, my ideas get mixed up with his until I’m not quite sure whose thoughts are whose anymore, but when we’re finally all talked out, I feel as if my whole body has been scrubbed with a brush – I’m tingly inside and out.” – Dani from Truths I Learned from Sam by Kristin Butcher, page 67
“And that’s what I leave the safe world I’ve always known and sink like a stone into oblvion. I hear what my mother has said, but my brain refuses to process it. It’s my body that reacts. My stomach clenches, and then every muscle I possess collapses and I become weak all over. I can barely hold the phone. I fall back against the futon. Tears stream down my cheeks, but I don’t bother to wipe them away. I’m too consumed with the hurt in my heart. It is literally aching.” – Dani from Truths I Learned from Sam by Kristin Butcher, page 154