Fourmile

( 4 )

Overview

Twelve-year-old Foster knows in his gut that Dax Ganey, the man dating his widowed mother, is a bad seed. Then a mysterious stranger arrives at their Alabama farm, a former Army Ranger in Iraq rambling across the country, and Foster believes he has found an ally against Dax. The stranger proves a fascinating mentor, full of wisdom and secrets. And Dax soon has reason to resent not just him and Foster but also Foster’s mother. A spurned Dax will be a dangerous enemy, but Foster ...

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Fourmile

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Overview

Twelve-year-old Foster knows in his gut that Dax Ganey, the man dating his widowed mother, is a bad seed. Then a mysterious stranger arrives at their Alabama farm, a former Army Ranger in Iraq rambling across the country, and Foster believes he has found an ally against Dax. The stranger proves a fascinating mentor, full of wisdom and secrets. And Dax soon has reason to resent not just him and Foster but also Foster’s mother. A spurned Dax will be a dangerous enemy, but Foster is increasingly aware that the stranger is just as dangerous, if not more so.

From Watt Key, the author of one of the most highly acclaimed children's survival adventures of the last decade, comes Fourmile, a tautly wound new novel reminiscent of classic westerns, about a boy caught in the middle of a clash that may turn out to be his own battle to fight.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

* "Suspenseful and introspective." —Publishers Weekly, starred review

* "Key has crafted another powerful, riveting coming-of-age tale. . . . Foster’s first-person voice is richly authentic as he gradually acquires the wisdom that will eventually lead him to a believable though heart-wrenching resolution to some of the crushing conflicts in his life. Confrontations between Dax and Gary are vivid and violent enough to disturb some readers, the violence expertly serving to define yet distinguish their characters. Deeply moving and fast-paced, this life-affirming effort is a worthy addition to the bookshelves of sturdy readers." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

* "Simultaneously poignant and suspenseful, the story will keep readers on the edge of their seats." —School Library Journal, starred review

"An original and satisfying coming-of-age tale." —The Horn Book

"Written in the tradition of classics such as Old Yeller and Shiloh but with a decidedly contemporary setting and tone, this will appeal to a broad range of readers." —BCCB

Publishers Weekly
Like Moon, the protagonist of Key’s Alabama Moon, 12-year-old country boy Foster is a rough-edged hero with a barrelful of troubles and a large, compassionate heart. Foster is still grieving the death of his father when his mother begins dating another man, Dax, who scares Foster “in a way I didn’t understand. Like somebody I’d find standing over my bed at night, closing those fingers around my throat.” To make matters worse, Foster’s mother wants to sell their rural Alabama farm, which her late husband “worked and saved ten years” to buy. Then a mysterious hiker named Gary shows up and offers to do some much-needed repairs. Spending his nights in the barn and his days fixing things, Gary wins the trust of Foster and his mother, but makes an enemy of Dax. As tensions between Gary and Dax mount, Key masterfully unveils secrets, leading up to an explosive climax that tests the courage of everyone involved. Suspenseful and introspective, Key’s novel is an intimate portrait of the messy complexities of modern small-town life. Ages 9–12. Agent: Marianne Merola, Brandt & Hochman Literary Agents. (Sept.)
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—As punishment for throwing a brick into Dax's truck windshield, 12-year-old Foster has to paint the fence that surrounds the Alabama farm where he lives with his mother. Dax, her boyfriend, is just plain mean and dangerous-even Joe, Foster's dog, knows that the man is bad news. Foster is out painting when Gary, a traveler on his way to Texas, walks up the road carrying a large pack. In exchange for minimum wage and a place to sleep in the barn, he stays for a few weeks while he fixes up the dilapidated farm. Gary provides a sharp contrast to Dax. Through his kindness and the attention he pays Foster, he helps the boy begin to heal after his father's death. When Dax turns violent, Foster's mom tells him she doesn't want to see him anymore, and the situation spirals out of control. This is a moving portrait of a boy coming to terms with loss and learning to survive on his own. Simultaneously poignant and suspenseful, the story will keep readers on the edge of their seats.Ragan O'Malley, Saint Ann's School, Brooklyn, NY
Kirkus Reviews
Key (Alabama Moon, 2006, etc.) has crafted another powerful, riveting coming-of-age tale that doesn't stint on violence to advance the action. Middle schooler Foster and his mother have been barely getting by since his father's death a year ago. The farm in Fourmile, Ala., is going to ruin around them without a man's help, and now Mother has begun a relationship with dangerous, unpleasant Dax, a man she seems powerless to keep from abusing both Foster and his dog, Joe. Then Gary shows up, hiking along the rural road. He's a young man with a secret past but is nevertheless kind, hardworking and ultimately heroic. Foster, desperate to find some steady ground in his life, connects to Gary immediately, even though in his heart he's aware that whatever is in Gary's past likely dooms the relationship. After Foster's mom spurns him, Dax begins an escalating and tragic campaign of retaliation. Foster's first-person voice is richly authentic as he gradually acquires the wisdom that will eventually lead him to a believable though heart-wrenching resolution to some of the crushing conflicts in his life. Confrontations between Dax and Gary are vivid and violent enough to disturb some readers, the violence expertly serving to define yet distinguish their characters. Deeply moving and fast-paced, this life-affirming effort is a worthy addition to the bookshelves of sturdy readers. (Fiction. 12 & up)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781250039958
  • Publisher: Square Fish
  • Publication date: 2/4/2014
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 129,410
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.13 (w) x 7.64 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

WATT KEY lives in southern Alabama with his family. Fourmile is his third book.

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Read an Excerpt

1

 

 

I heard Mother calling, but I didn’t answer. I lay in the scattered hay and stared at the afternoon sunbeams angling through the big bay doors of the barn. Against the wall were damp, moldy bales that had been in the same place for over a year. They smelled more of wet dirt and decay than anything fresh-cut. Two sheets of tin had blown off the roof during the winter and the place was rotting. There was too much to do now. Mother and I couldn’t keep up.

I rolled over and faced my dog, Joe. He lifted his chin and nosed the chewed-up stick lying in front of him.

“Not right now,” I said.

Joe rested his chin on the ground again. He was patient.

“Foster!” Mother called again.

I stood and walked into the sunbeams with Joe following. I stopped just outside and looked across the yard at her. She’d known where I was, but she wouldn’t come after me. She didn’t like the barn now. She said there was nothing we could do about it.

“Dax’s here!” she called. “Come get washed up before dinner!”

I looked over the rail fence at the pasture beyond. The cows had been gone for several months, sold to the farmer behind us. Johnsongrass grew waist-high, looking like something that would be a giant briar patch in another year. Daddy’s farm truck and Kubota tractor sat under the shed. The place had grown still and quiet and lifeless. There was nothing we could do about any of it.

*   *   *

I left Joe waiting at the back door and stepped into the kitchen. Mother was pulling a baked chicken from the oven and I smelled her perfume over the roasted meat. I never knew her to wear perfume until Dax Ganey started coming around. The smell of it made me queasy.

He leaned against the sink, working a can of old Milwaukee beer like it was hinged on his hand, watching her. It seemed he was always leaning on something, skinny and hungry-looking. He wore his blue work pants and white button-down shirt that said RIVIERA UTILITIES on the pocket. He was nearly five years younger than her and wore his hair long in the back, sometimes pulling it into a ponytail. Mother said she’d met him about two months before when he was surveying an underground power line in front of our house. The first time she’d had him over to eat I thought he was as cool and smooth as a movie star. Gradually I came to realize how he really was when Mother wasn’t looking. The only thing I liked about Dax was that he worked most evenings during the week. Since Mother worked at the post office during the day, Saturdays and Sundays were about the only time I had to see him.

Dax flicked the last swallow of beer into the sink and dropped the empty into the trash. Then he turned to me and studied me until I looked away. He wouldn’t smile unless Mother was watching him.

“How you doin’, Foster?” he said.

I started past him. “Fine,” I said.

I heard the oven door shut and sensed Mother’s eyes on me. “Shake his hand, Foster,” she said.

I stopped next to him and held out my hand without looking at him. He had a snake tattoo on the bottom of his wrist. I didn’t like shaking his hand. I didn’t mind the tattoo, but his fingers were strong like cables and he usually squeezed my knuckles until it hurt, like he wanted to warn me of something.

This time his hand was limp and clammy.

“Look a man in the eyes when you shake his hand, son,” he said cheerfully.

I didn’t. I pulled away and started to my room.

“What’d I do?” I heard him say.

“You didn’t do anything, Dax.” Mother sighed.

I went into my room, shut the door, and rubbed my hand. I could still hear them.

“Why’s he hang out in the barn?”

“I don’t know,” she said, like she was tired of thinking about it.

I stood in the middle of the floor, holding a clean shirt, staring at my closet.

“Maybe I’ll take him fishin’ with me. Might snap him out of it.”

I changed shirts and stood before my mirror, still listening, but wishing I wasn’t.

“I need to get him off this farm,” she said. “Get him in a neighborhood with other kids. We’ve got to sell this place.”

“Where does that leave me, sweetie?” he said smoothly.

“Stop that, Dax.”

“Stop what?”

“You know what. Go in there and watch television and give me time to get this together.”

I waited until I heard another beer can snap, then I forced myself into the bathroom to wash my hands.

*   *   *

I walked into the kitchen and Mother turned from the sink and inspected me.

“I wish you’d put on some clean trousers.”

He didn’t change.”

She turned back to the sink. I noticed where her apron parted in the back that she had on a dress I’d only seen her wear on Sundays when we used to go to church.

“Okay,” I said.

“Thank you for doing that,” she replied. “And I’d like it if you’d go sit in the living room with Mr. Ganey and keep him company.”

After I put on clean pants I went into the living room and sat in the club chair across from him. He didn’t look at me or say anything. He was more interested in a rerun of Walker, Texas Ranger. I took the opportunity to study the side of his face. He reminded me of a goat. A smoothshaved goat. Restless and jumpy with eyes that blinked too much, like whatever went on inside his head was too fast for the face that held it. He shot a look at me and I glanced away.

“You like Chuck Norris?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” I said.

In my periphery I saw him turn back to the television.

“What do you do out in the barn?” he asked.

“Nothing.”

Neither of us said anything for a minute.

“What’s wrong with that dog of yours?”

“Nothing’s wrong with him.”

“I about had to kick the crap out of it last time I came over here.”

I didn’t answer him.

“You need to put him on a rope.”

“He never bit anybody.”

“He about started on me.”

I didn’t respond.

“Your momma says you been givin’ her trouble.”

I stared at my hands.

“Says you been gettin’ in fights at school.”

I looked at him. I couldn’t believe she’d told him about it. He turned to me again and I looked away at the television. Then he was chuckling to himself. “Kid needs to get in a few fights. Get over the fear of it early. You don’t wanna grow up and be a pansy-ass, do you?”

I shook my head. I just wanted him to stop talking.

“But let me tell you somethin’,” he said.

Mother walked in before he could tell me anything and I let out a breath I didn’t know I’d been holding.

“Dinner is served, you two,” she said proudly.

I got up quickly and started for the dining room table. I didn’t like being alone with him. Dax scared me in a way that I didn’t understand. In a way that I’d never felt. Like somebody I’d find standing over my bed at night, closing those fingers around my throat.

 

Copyright © 2012 by Albert Watkins Key, Jr.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2013

    Yes!!!!

    This book is amazing. I just finished it and afterwards im always sad it ended. I can connect it with my life and visualize it well. Watt key is an amazing author. I love all his books. I hope he continues to write :)

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2013

    Sexybaby

    I jave never read this book i just wanted to write something but im sure this book is amazing if i read it im sure its a good book

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 24, 2012

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    Posted August 12, 2014

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