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The Mailbox by Audrey Shafer
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The Mailbox

by Audrey Shafer

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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 |
Fantastic book! I could really feel how Gabe felt and how strong he was, despite his rough life. He allows others in even when there have been so many times he has been let down. You laugh and cry and even mourn for Guppy, the dog!
  smheatherly2 | May 18, 2012 |
I read this book because I was intrigued by the mystery it seemed to hold. It holds more than that.

This is a book about: fostering, adoption, pet fostering, death and life, trust, and facing your fears.

Gabe is used to veing shuttled from foster home to foster home when a caring caseworker is finally able to locate his uncle who agrees to take him in. Death strikes unexpectedly and Gabe finds himself alone and unsure of what to do. When this happens he also finds a curious correspondence has begun between him and a stranger, via Uncle Vernon's mailbox.

This is a book written for juveniles but it explores some very mature themes. There is some discussion about a Vietnam vet who mistakenly fired upon a Vietnamese child who was firing on him. This tragedy haunted the vet who eventually fited upon himself due to thd guilt for which he couldn't forgive himself...
This same veteran, though mentally unstable, reaches iut to Gabe, via the mailbox, and the two become friends from afar. Each helps the other in his own way, to face a world without Vernon.

This story also portrays teachers, caseworkers, and law officials as being human beings with feelings and with the ability and need to reach out to others. In the end, the story line is nicely tidied up with everyone moving appropriately forward.

I strongly caution a pre-read by parents and teachers prior to allowing or encouraging children to read this book. While it is well-written and thought-provoking, in my opinion, it should probably only be read by kids ages 10 or 12 and older. And then only if they will not be tormented by a man shooting half his head off in an attempt to expunge himself of guilt... This story has its place but it isn't for everyone. It certainly isn't something I'd have chosen to read if I'd known the subject matter more fully. If our boys choose to read it I'll be glad I've already read it. ( )
  BoundTogetherForGood | Jan 10, 2012 |
Gabe a foster child is sent to live with his uncle, Vernon, a veteran of the Vietnam War. It is hard for him to attend at school for the first day because he knows only a few kids. But the situation gets worse after he finds his uncle dead after his first day of school. Since he is afraid to go back to foster home again, he doesn’t report his uncle’s death. When he returns home after the second day of school, he finds a note in the mailbox: “I have a secret” and his uncle’s body is gone. The blanket he used to cover the body is folded and someone has left a sandwich and a bottle of juice for him. The next day, he is afraid to return to the empty house, but there is a note again and food even for his uncle’s dog, Guppy. He receives the notes every day and tries to unravel the puzzle of the notes in the mailbox. He realizes that even when he thinks that he is alone, he is not.

It is one of the more gorgeous books I have read. You cannot put the book away until you find who the writer of the notes is, and what happened to the body. It is very well written and is suitable for young adults in grade five to seven. Those who like mystery books, you will love this book. It reveals how people are far away emotionally, and they just think about themselves. Nobody in the town notices the absence of Vernon. ( )
  Zohrehtheexplorer | Dec 2, 2010 |
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:39:03 -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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