Amaryllisby Craig Crist-Evans
AMARYLLIS. It was the name of the ship that ran aground on Singer Island, Florida, during a/b>
"This is a powerful tale of family, forgiveness, and acceptance of what life throws in our paths - but ultimately, with its almost painful realism, this is the finest depiction of war we've yet seen for young readers." — KIRKUS REVIEWS (starred review)
AMARYLLIS. It was the name of the ship that ran aground on Singer Island, Florida, during a hurricane in 1965. It became a battle cry for Jimmy Staples and his older brother, Frank, and a code word for going surfing together. But now that eighteen-year-old Frank is off battling the enemy (and his own addictive demons) in Vietnam and fifteen-year-old Jimmy is left to deal with the repercussions at home, "Amaryllis" takes on an ominous new meaning - a symbol of what happens when life places the unexpected in our paths.
Craig Crist-Evans has written a wrenching novel of a family whose internal battles chase one son away - into the clutches of a war and an enemy he could never have imagined. Told both from a soldier's view and by the brother he leaves behind, Amaryllis is an ideal choice for students learning about the Vietnam era, or for any reader curious about the reality of war.
- Candlewick Press
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.20(w) x 7.75(h) x 0.55(d)
- Age Range:
- 14 - 17 Years
Read an Excerpt
My brother Frank's eighteen. Just turned last March. He always said he'd do anything to get out of this house. But join the army and go to Vietnam? Don't get me wrong. It's not that I think he's stupid for signing up; it's just that I worry. I mean, watch the news. Villages getting napalmed, Vietcong crawling through the jungle, lying in wait, then pouncing in the middle of the night. At the end of every segment, Walter Cronkite lists the body count. It usually sounds pretty good for us, but there are always body bags with American flags draped over them getting loaded into cargo planes.
Dad doesn't say much about it, and it makes me wonder if he secretly hopes Frank gets killed. I know parents aren't supposed to think that way about their kids, but my dad is a case. When Frank was still around, sometimes they'd yell so loud the neighbors would call my mom and ask her to make them stop. Sometimes she'd stand there, her hair pulled back tight, arms crossed over her chest, and watch them, knowing there was nothing at all she could say that would end it. She always got a look on her face that seemed to say, I didn't ask for this. Please let there be peace in this house. Sloopy, our basset hound, got into it too. After a couple of rounds of escalating voices, she'd chime in, howling like the moon was coming up in our own backyard.
I've never figured out why Dad hated Frank so much. Maybe because Frank was not afraid of him. Maybe it's just that everything about Frank confused Dad. Frank was smart and able to talk really well. I know it sounds funny, but my brother is a philosopher. The two of them would get into an argument and Frank would almost always make his point in a way that Dad couldn't argue with, so Dad would smack him or ground him for a week instead. Actually, I think it's more that in Frank, Dad saw all the things he could have been if he hadn't gotten married so young and had all of us to take care of, as if he both envied and resented Frank at the same time.
I don't want to paint a completely awful picture. My dad has his good moments. Last week, he took me to the beach and sat in the sand for two hours while I paddled out and waited for the lines of big swells to turn into waves. When I came in, soaked to the bones, as he would say, and burnt from the salt and the sun, we jumped in the car and headed back along A1A.
Singer Island is not the greatest place to surf. It's not the greatest place to drive either, but Dad seemed calm and happy as we passed the hotels and tennis clubs, the rows of houses, the little artificial jungles of palmetto, sable palm, and sea grape.
We had just passed the AMARYLLIS when, out of the blue, Dad asked, "Do you miss your brother?"
He sounded choked up, and that surprised me. I wanted to tell him that it scared me, that Frank was who I talked to when things were bad, that I couldn't imagine my brother lugging an M-16 into some swampy distance with a bunch of other boys his age who were probably all just fresh from "the World," as Frank has come to refer to every place except the war.
"I don't think about it much," I said.
Dad turned his head to look at me.
"Oh," he said.
We drove the rest of the way home in silence.
We turned left and crossed the Intracoastal Waterway. Along the rails of the bridge, a bunch of men and women stood, casting heavy lures and chunks of raw bait over the side and then reeling slowly. One man, fat enough to take two seats on a Greyhound bus, was sweating and tugging hard against his rod, bent almost double as he tried to bring in a big one.
Mom was in the kitchen when we got back.
"What have my boys been up to?" she said as I walked around the corner from the living room. She was bending over a large pot of something boiling on the stove, her hair tucked back behind one ear.
"Surfing!" Dad's voice boomed from the carport, as if he'd been hanging ten and tucking for some imaginary pipeline himself.
I've got mixed feelings about having him take me to the beach. On the one hand, I like to think we've got a normal relationship, that I can do things with my dad. On the other, it's just plain embarrassing to have him waiting on the dunes and then ranting about what fun we had. I mean, he sits there in his bright yellow windbreaker and those goofy sunglasses staring at the girls. I push out as far as I can go and watch the waves. I can't wait till next month when I get my license and can drive myself to the beach.
"Beef stew and succotash," my mother said, bending over me, "your favorite."
Where she gets these ideas, I don't know. Depending on when you ask, she'll tell you my "favorite" is meatloaf, broiled grouper, banana bread and peanut butter, or Cheerios with raisins and buttermilk. She doesn't have a clue. The truth is, I like just about anything, especially after being in the water all day.
AMARYLLIS by Craig Crist-Evans. Copyright (c) 2006 by Craig Crist-Evans. Published by Candlewick Press, Inc., Cambridge, MA
Meet the Author
CRAIG CRIST-EVANS is the author of NORTH OF EVERYTHING and MOON OVER TENNESSEE: A BOY'S CIVIL WAR JOURNAL, for which he received the International Reading Association's Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award. In addition, he published poems, articles, essays, and reviews in numerous journals. Craig Crist-Evans died in 2005.
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