Set in northeastern Vermont in 1952, this novel by Howard Frank Mosher
chronicles the summer of Jim Kinnesons thirteenth year and the events
that conspired to change a small town.
It begins when the town church hires a new minister who arrives in town
with his teenage son. In this community, newcomers are seldom seen, and
rarely welcomed. But despite the dark color of his skin, the new minister,
Reverand Andrews, is embraced by almost everyone. He likewise embraces
his new life, and works diligently to know the people and their history,
which seems to be as much alive as the present. Over the next few months,
he does make a few enemies, but as he himself said, I dont
completely trust a chap who doesnt have any enemies. Yet what
he brushes off as normal becomes almost deadly when someone is found murdered,
and the Reverand is the only suspect. What follows becomes a twisting
tale of local lore and suspicions.
A Stranger in the Kingdom is reminiscent of books like To Kill a Mockingbird
and Peyton Place, and like them, it deals with the hearts of men in a
seemingly innocent and good town. We meet nearly everyone in the town
of Kingdom Common, from the local outlaws, to the judge and to the busybody
that most folks try to avoid. We see their weaknesses and strengths through
young Jims eyes. We hear the petty arguments between his father
and his older brother, and watch his mother care for her family. This
is compelling stuff, if only because we know people like this! Mosher
has created a community of unique and familiar individuals, and their
interaction is wonderful.
The first two-thirds of this book was a good read, enjoyable, but not
earth-shattering. However, once the courtroom scenes began, it was almost
impossible to put down. After having lived with these characters, to watch
how they act and behave in the climax, was well worth the wait. Mosher
has given plenty of town and personal background, and on that foundation
the end of the book is built. What was wonderful was that although terrible
things were done and secrets were revealed, this story does not end in
despair, but in hope that over time, things will and can be improved.
Most importantly, love and trust triumphed over hate and deceit, because
only true Love can ever completely change the heart of man.