By Claire Rudolf Murphy
(Clarion Books, Hardcover, 9780618111343, 208pp.)
Publication Date: March 2002
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Luke McHenry loves baseball. After repeated disappointments, he is determined to make the All Star team. Then his mother makes an explosive confession: 31 years ago she was involved in an antiVietnam War protest that went horribly wrong, and a student was killed. Mom has been in hiding ever since, but now she is ready to turn herself in. While her whole life in Alaska has been a masquerade, for Luke it is his only reality. Suddenly, everythingfrom the baseball season to his very identityis in jeopardy.
As Luke witnesses his mother’s struggle to face up to the mistakes of her youth, he begins to understand his own hopes and fearsand who he really is. Free Radical is both a contemporary coming-of-age story and a moving depiction of a parent’s guilt and need for forgiveness.
Claire Rudolf Murphy is the author of two previous novels and several books of nonfiction. She was inspired to write Free Radical while contemplating her own feelings about the Vietnam War and how teenagers view it today. After spending many years in Alaska, Claire and her family now live in Spokane, Washington. This is her first book for Clarion.
This is a well-written, compelling story of guilt, justice, indentity, forgiveness, coming of age, and coming to terms.
Combining an unusual theme with a well-developed and broad-ranging plot, Murphy has created an insightful and involving story.
School Library Journal