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The Mailbox by Audrey Shafer
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The Mailbox

by Audrey Shafer

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The beginning of the novel caught me off-guard because Uncle Vernon speaks with a dialect. But like any other novel with dialect, it's easy to read once you get used to it. As the description says the story is about connections: Vernon and Gabe; Gabe and Webber; Gabe and Mr. Boehm; Vernon and the mystery writer. These characters are very believable and I liked getting to know them. Gabe is especially well-written and embodies not only the awkwardness of his age, but also the awkwardness (and occasional fear) of his situation.

There is a second plot line discussing Uncle Vernon service in the military. The majority of these scenes are revealed as Gabe's memories of living with his Uncle. It's both beautiful and sad. Unfortunately, this plot line is dropped during much of the action of the story; I actually forgot about Uncle Vernon's army days. But perhaps Gabe did too. A twelve-year-old isn't exactly going to dwell on his uncle's army days.

From my point of view, the only shortfall was the ending. It wrapped up a bit too neatly for my taste. It was not a bad ending, I'm just not big on perfection, especially in realistic fiction. It doesn't take away from the novel--in fact, the ending is one of two scenarios you hope for. It's just a personal preference. Overall, it's a great middle grade novel that I would definitely recommend. ( )
  jennk | Mar 11, 2016 |
Narrated by Nick Landrum. Gabe comes home from school to find his Uncle Vernon dead on the floor. Gabe has been orphaned since a toddler and after numerous foster homes, finally found a stable home with his uncle. Fearing that he will be returned to the foster system, Gabe keeps his uncle’s death a secret. But someone else knows what’s going on. Uncle Vernon’s body disappears and Gabe begins receiving notes in the mailbox assuring him that everything will be all right. Gabe’s correspondent turns out to be Smitty, a Vietnam war vet like Vernon and one of his closest friends. The happy, Lassie-come-home ending is way too convenient and sentimental. The narration ultimately makes Gabe come off as almost too squeaky-clean and well-mannered to be believed, considering his transitional upbringing. ( )
  Salsabrarian | Feb 2, 2016 |
Good book for young adults ( )
  Erika.D | Jan 28, 2016 |
Another coming-of-age novel about a mixed-up kid trying to sort things out. Ho-hum. There's a somewhat contrived premise of child abandonment that may be acceptable to middle and high schoolers, but most readers won't be able to suspend their disbelief. While there were poignant passages about this foster child trying to make it on his own, the improbable characterization involving a phantom Vietnam War who provides miraculous assistance is a stretch.

For me, it read like a paint-by-numbers adolescent novel trying to gel the story of unwanted children with the plight of Vietnam War vets. How is it a social misfit kid with bad grammar writes like a gifted student? How does a near-crippled war veteran stealthily sneak in and clean up after the deceased? Too much magical realm clashing with what was supposed to be the harsh reality of the poor kid's circumstances, and the happily-ever-after ending was disappointing. The author ran out of complexity. ( )
  sross008 | Sep 1, 2013 |
I don't know if I was influenced by the fact that I haven't been thrilled with the last two audiobooks I listened to, but I loved this book. I did feel the ending went on a little longer than it probably needed to - that the extra continuations took away some of the impact that could have been had by ending things a little earlier and less tied up - but that's a minor quibble.

Listened to Recorded Books Audio Edition narrated by Nick Landrum. The narration was excellent with Landrum creating different voices for each character including slight Southern accents when appropriate.

This could also be an excellent classroom novel that would connect well with Vietnam War units or would work well for book discussion groups of 4th or 5th grade up through 8th or so. I still think my Caudill vote would go to Savvy, but this knocks Schooled out of contention for me for sure. Schooled was good, but I definitely liked this better. ( )
  JenJ. | Mar 31, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0440421349, Paperback)

Vernon Culligan had been dead to the town of Draydon, Virginia, so long that when the crusty Vietnam vet finally died, only one person noticed. Twelve-year-old Gabe grew up in the foster care system until a social worker located his Uncle Vernon two years before. When he comes home to discover that his uncle has died of a heart attack, he's terrifed of going back into the system--so he tells no one. The next day, he discovers a strange note in his mailbox: I HAVE A SECRET. DO NOT BE AFRAID. And his uncle's body is gone.

Thus begins a unique correspondence destined to save the two people that depended on Vernon for everything. Through flashbacks, we learn about Gabe and Vernon's relationship, and how finding each other saved them both from lives of suffering. But eventually, Vernon's death will be discovered, and how will Gabe and the mystery note writer learn to move forward? THE MAILBOX is not a story about death--though it begins with a death. It's also not a story about Vietnam vets, although the author works with Vietnam veterans and wrote this novel, in part, to illuminate their sacrifices and suffering. THE MAILBOX is a story about connections--about how two people in need can save each other.


From the Hardcover edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:41 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

When twelve-year-old Gabe tries to hide his uncle's death from the local authorities, he is not prepared for what happens when this secret is discovered.

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