Summary: Young Tommy hasn’t been to his family cabin since his mother died two years before. Living now with his father and his Aunt Dottie, a woman with a serious germ-phobia, Young Tommy is looking forward to going back to the cabin, hoping he’ll run into Baby Bridget, the girl next door he cares for. Getting to the cabin means taking his life in his hands at times as he travels with his father and his father’s friend Frank, a notorious drunk who drives anyway. All along their journey the news is that Mean Hughie, Baby Bridget’s father, is dying of cancer, and when he finally gets to the cabin Young Tommy helps Baby Bridget get through the second hardest moment of her life.
Number of Pages: 113
Age Range: 14-16
Review: Up to Low by Brian Doyle is old school teen fiction. Published in 1982, the year I was born, it has a different feel to it then the books I’m reading from 2000 onward. Not a lot actually happens in the book, instead, it is a poignant snapshot of a moment in Young Tommy’s life. It’s memorable because Young Tommy is reunited with Baby Bridget, the girl he has a crush on, and he is there to witness her reunification with her father just before her father dies.
In a way, it reads more like a short story than a novel, because there was so much more I wanted to know that wasn’t contained in the book. Also, I’m not sure I really understood the significance of Frank’s drinking problem and Aunt Dottie’s germ-phobia besides simply being amusing anecdotes. Did they contribute to Young Tommy’s growth as a character? I’m not sure.
This is my first time reading Brian Doyle’s work so I’m wondering if I simply need to get used to his style. I have two more of his books on my list, so I have time to test my theory. I would recommend Up to Low to reluctant, mid teen readers mostly because I’m curious to find out if it is a book that stands the test of time for today’s readers.
“Then all of a sudden I knew. I knew what that crazy old Hummer meant. Healing.
Healing. There was healing. But it wasn’t her arm that got the healing. No. Not the arm.
It was the heart.
The heart got healed.
Baby Bridget’s heart!” – Tommy from Up To Low by Brian Doyle, pages 101-102
Up To Low by Brian Doyle is published by Groundwood Books (1982).