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A well-written contemporary story dealing with issues that many teenagers face, including the death of a parent and a loved one with AIDS. "An unusually understated, still-generous depiction of modern family life." -- Kirkus Reviews, pointer

Following his father's death from a heart attack, thirteen-year-old Hand blames himself and his mother, who has recently returned after leaving the family years ago.

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A well-written contemporary story dealing with issues that many teenagers face, including the death of a parent and a loved one with AIDS. "An unusually understated, still-generous depiction of modern family life." -- Kirkus Reviews, pointer

Following his father's death from a heart attack, thirteen-year-old Hand blames himself and his mother, who has recently returned after leaving the family years ago.

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Editorial Reviews

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
Kirkus Reviews
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 business—a rundown motel and "Oasis" of the title—the 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
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786812936
  • Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
  • Publication date: 9/15/1998
  • Edition description: 1ST Hyperion Paperback edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 170
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 7.62 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Gregory Maguire

Gregory Maguire is the popular author of many books for children, including the Hamlet Chronicles for Clarion, as well as several adult books, including WICKED (HarperCollins), upon which a Broadway musical was based, and its sequel, CONFESSIONS OF AN UGLY STEPSISTER (Regan Books). He lives in Concord, Massachusetts.


Raised in a family of writers (his father was a journalist and his stepmother a poet), Gregory Maguire grew up with a great love of books, especially fairy tales and fantasy fiction. He composed his own stories from an early age and released his first book for children, The Lightning Time, in 1978, just two years after graduating from the State University of New York at Albany.

Several other children's book followed, but major recognition eluded Maguire. Then, in 1995, he published his first adult novel. A bold, revisionist view of Frank L. Baum's classic Oz stories, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West places one of literature's most reviled characters at the center of a dark dystopian fantasy and raises provocative questions about the very nature of good and evil. Purists criticized Maguire for tampering with a beloved juvenile classic, but the book received generally good reviews (John Updike, writing in The New Yorker, proclaimed it "an amazing novel.") and the enthusiasm of readers catapulted it to the top of the bestseller charts. (Maguire's currency increased even further when the book was turned into the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Wicked in 2003.)

In the wake of his breakthrough novel, Maguire has made something of a specialty out of turning classic children's tales on their heads. He retold the legends of Cinderella and Snow White in Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister (1999) and Mirror, Mirror (2003); he raised the ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge in Lost (2001); and, in 2005, he returned to Oz for Son of a Witch, the long-awaited sequel to Wicked. He has reviewed fantasy fiction for the Sunday New York Times Book Review and has contributed his own articles, essays, and stories to publications like Ploughshares, The Boston Review, the Christian Science Monitor, and The Horn Book Magazine.

In addition, Maguire has never lost his interest in -- or enthusiasm for -- children's literature. He is the author of The Hamlet Chronicles, a bestselling seven-book series of high-camp mystery-adventures with silly count-down titles like Seven Spiders Spinning and Three Rotten Eggs. He has taught at the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons College and is a founding member of Children's Literature New England (CLNE), a nonprofit organization that focuses attention on the significance of literature in the lives of children.

Good To Know

In our interview, Maguire shared some fun facts with us about his life:

"While I pride myself on trying to be creative in all areas of my life, I have occasionally gone overboard, like the time I decided to bring to a party a salad that I constructed, on a huge rattan platter, to look like a miniature scale model of the Gardens of Babylon. I built terraces with chunks of Monterey jack, had a forest of broccoli florets and a lagoon of Seven Seas salad dressing spooned into a half a honeydew melon. I made reed patches out of scallion tips and walkways out of sesame seeds lined with raisin borders. Driving to the party, I had to brake to avoid a taxi, and by the time the police flagged me down for poor driving skills I was nearly weeping. ‘But Officer, I have a quickly decomposing Hanging Gardens of Babylon to deliver....' Everything had slopped and fallen over and it looked like a tray of vegetable garbage."

"My first job was scooping ice cream at Friendly's in Albany, New York. I hated the work, most of my colleagues, and the uniform, and I more or less lost my taste for ice cream permanently."

"If I hadn't been a writer, I would have tried to be one of the following: An artist (watercolors), a singer/songwriter like Paul Simon (taller but not very much more), an architect (domestic), a teacher. Actually, in one way or another I have done all of the above, but learned pretty quickly that my skills needed more honing for me to charge for my services, and I'd always rather write fiction than hone skills."

"I steal a bit from one of my favorite writers to say, simply, that I enjoy, most of all, old friends and new places. I love to travel. Having small children at home now impedes my efforts a great deal, but I have managed in my time to get to Asia, Africa, most of Europe, and Central America. My wish list of places not yet visited includes India, Denmark, Brazil, and New Zealand, and my wish for friends not yet made includes, in a sense, readers who are about to discover my work, either now or even when I'm no longer among the living. In a sense, in anticipation, I value those friends in a special way."

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    1. Hometown:
      Boston, Massachusetts
    1. Date of Birth:
      June 9, 1954
    2. Place of Birth:
      Albany, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., SUNY at Albany, 1976; M.A., Simmons College, 1978; Ph.D., Tufts University, 1990
    2. Website:

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 2.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2003

    Good book for the wrong reasons

    I think that this book, although well written, is a horrible book to hand to a child. I think that the message of how to deal with death and abandonment are totally wrong. Hand's mother needs to get counciling herself before she can be a mother to Hand. His sister is no better. Although realistic the book portrays a horrible message of how to deal with one's feelings.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 31, 2000

    A Recommended Book...

    This is a great book that really shows the things that a teenage boy feels about death, his mother coming back to live with him after 3 years, and other visitors in his father's motel, called 'Oasis'. Pick up this book if you get a chance!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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