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By Donna Milner

Earlier than River, every little thing used to be ideal. . . . growing to be up on a Canadian dairy farm under miles from the yankee border, fifteen-year-old Natalie Ward understands little of the skin international. yet her loving, close-knit family members is the envy of old and young alike within the within sight city of Atwood. Natalie adores her 3 brothers—especially Boyer, the eldest, whom she idolizes. yet every thing adjustments one sizzling July afternoon in 1966 whilst a long-haired stranger seems to be at their door—a soft-spoken American, a Vietnam conflict resister, who will try out the family's morals and ideology, and set in movement catastrophic occasions that may shatter Natalie's relationships with these she such a lot dearly loves.

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He holds his arms out in an open-handed gesture of surrender. He won’t keep me against my will, I know, but he’ll do his best to interrupt this dance of leaving. That is Vern. His strength is what has kept me with him this long, his strength in being able to let go. But he’s right. It’s just a matter of time. This is what I do. I run. I leave. He’s the first man to recognize this, or the first one to place it in the light where we both have to look at it. And he’s the first one who will not be surprised when I go.

Don’t worry,’ Boyer smiled at me from across his desk. ‘This is 43 D ONNA MILNER about the first Mr Atwood, old Daniel. Stanley Senior is his son and he’s nothing like his father. ’ ‘There’s your ten-penny word for the week,’ Boyer said and handed me his Webster’s Dictionary. The next day I took the ballad to school as my project for the concert rehearsal. When the teacher asked who had written it, I kept my promise to Boyer. I was pretty proud of that word too. Anonymous. Boyer and I rehearsed the verses so many times in his attic room that I could repeat them in my sleep.

Mom took the glossy pamphlet and studied the prices. ‘Not bad,’ she mused. ‘They even have Christmas cards in these packages,’ she 40 AFTER RIVER added wistfully. ’ ‘It wouldn’t be like we were taking business from him if we can’t afford it in the first place,’ my father said. I watched my mother struggle with the temptation of finally having a family portrait done. Two days later, under the cover of darkness, we stood outside the parked van, waiting our turn to sit in front of the blue-sky and fluffy-cloud backdrop.

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