Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Weaving his work more tightly than in his Seven Spiders Spinning, Maguire produces an idiosyncratic and touching story about personal tragedy and growth. Thirteen-year-old Hand Gunther finds his altruistic, pacifist father dead on the floor of the rundown Massachusetts motel they own. Abandoned by his mother three years earlier, the boy resents her fiercely when she moves back from the West Coast to take charge of the family and the motel. Numb with denial, awash with guilt, Hand misguidedly suspects his mysterious Uncle Wolfgang has some connection with his father's death, despite Wolfgang's efforts to help him through his loss. When two Iranian immigrants, father and son, come to the motel for refuge, Hand finds himself capable of his late father's kind of generosity. Slowly, he begins to feel something again. The discovery that Uncle Wolfgang is dying of AIDS finally brings the boy's stifled emotions to the surface. Although the text is over-saturated with chestnuts of wisdom from Emily Dickinson, Maguire steers clear of the earnest tones that often characterize YA bereavement stories. Instead, he deftly draws a cast of small town characters, and endows Hand with sharp and frank powers of narration. Ages 11-14. (Oct.)
VOYA - Chris Crowe
Thirteen-year-old Mohandas "Hand" Gunther comes home one day and discovers his father dead on the floor in the canteen of the Oasis Motel. Hand and his father, a teacher, pacifist, and motel owner, had recently moved to rural Massachusetts, where both hoped to work through the pain of abandonment by Hand's mother. Now Hand's grief is compounded, and in addition to dealing with his mother, who returns for the funeral and to assume custody of Hand, he must deal with the guilt he feels over his father's death. As Hand wrestles with grief and guilt, an assortment of characters pass through his life, each in his own way helping Hand: Uncle Wolfgang, who eventually dies of AIDS; two Iranian refugees who are reunited with their family; and Hand's mother, with whom Hand reconciles by novel's end. The novel's plot, told in third person, is vague and slow-paced. The various conflicts-death, guilt, mourning, family relationships, AIDS, refugees-all have some connection to the plot, but rather than focusing the narrative, they diffuse it. The general theme and tone of the book may be more suited for adult readers than for YAs. Though the plot has some weaknesses, the writing holds up well, as does the character of Hand. YA readers who enjoyed Oneal's A Formal Feeling (Viking, 1982), Paterson's A Bridge to Terabitha (Crowell, 1977), and other novels about death will find parallels in Hand's search for ways to manage his grief. VOYA Codes: 3Q 2P S (Readable without serious defects, For the YA with a special interest in the subject, Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
Children's Literature - Heidi Green
Oasis is a complex tale of love, loss, grief, and acceptance. Thirteen-year-old Mohandas (Hand) Gunther returns home from school one day to find his father dead. His mother returns from a three-year absence to care for him. Hand struggles to make sense of his relationship with her even as he is coming to terms with his feelings about the loss of his father. The novel has a well-formed cast of support characters, from the mysterious Uncle Wolfgang to Nur Ziba and his five-year-old son, Vuffy. Selections from Emily Dickinson are a fine complement to the story, and Maguire's own skill keeps the story from being overwhelmingly bleak.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-A multilayered, beautiful, sensitively written story about 13-year-old Hand Gunther, who is coping with the death of his father while slowly allowing his mother to become a meaningful part of his life. The book's dramatic and engrossing opening introduces Hand's father, Rudy, a man committed to world peace and understanding. Maguire meticulously unfolds the boy's history so readers can appreciate the emotion of the moment. When Rudy dies, Hand is suddenly alone, having lived with his father since his mother left them three years earlier. The author's skill at character development brings Hand's confusion and inner tension to life. He has been bitter about his mother's abandonment, and even refuses to speak to her on the phone when she receives the news of her estranged husband's death. Now circumstances force her into Hand's life, but he is not quick to forgive or accept her. Several contrasting subplots develop that help Hand acknowledge his grief as he gradually comes to believe that his mother never stopped loving him. How aptly named is Hand's home, the Oasis Motel, for it is there that love and a sense of family is rediscovered as it is surrounded by conflict, prejudice, and turmoil. An excellent addition to books with similar themes, such as Cynthia Rylant's Missing May (Orchard, 1992) and Sharon Creech's Walk Two Moons (HarperCollins, 1994).-Renee Steinberg, Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ
A young man's struggle with grief over the sudden death of his father is the central conflict in a novel that effortlessly illuminates the depth and strength of the human spirit.
Hand Gunther blames himself for the death of his father, Rudy, of a heart attack; condemns his estranged mother, Clare, for returning to the family too late; and resents his sister Vida's eager forgiveness of Clare. As they struggle to keep afloat the family businessa rundown motel and "Oasis" of the titlethe cold war between mother and son reaches a stalemate when a pair of Iranian refugees, Nur and his five-year-old son, Vuffy, appear on the doorstep, ready to take up a past offer of Rudy's to put the family up for a few days when they reached the US. In no time, Nur is busy repairing the rooms while Vuffy charms Hand out of his depression. The journey of Hand, a likable and intelligent teenager, toward a more adult and compassionate sensibility is realistically rendered by Maguire (Missing Sisters, 1994, etc.), and the resolution that Hand and his nondemonstrative mother reach is satisfying without becoming mawkish. An unusually understated, still-generous depiction of modern family life.
From the Publisher
"An unusually understated, still-generous depiction of modern family life." Kirkus Reviews with Pointers