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Wild Ride to Heaven

Wild Ride to Heaven

by Leander Watts

Something strange is out in the woods. Something Hannah has never seen before. Good or evil, she can’t tell. But she knows she must go out and meet it.
Hannah lives in the lonely frontier backwoods. Her mother has abandoned her for reasons she can only guess. And her father spends all his time hunting for some mythical treasure she knows he’ll


Something strange is out in the woods. Something Hannah has never seen before. Good or evil, she can’t tell. But she knows she must go out and meet it.
Hannah lives in the lonely frontier backwoods. Her mother has abandoned her for reasons she can only guess. And her father spends all his time hunting for some mythical treasure she knows he’ll never find. So for food and shelter and the warmth of a fire, Hannah must do all the work.
Then her father sells her to be a house servant and she is sent away. For a whole year she’s condemned to work like a slave for the brutal, cruel Barrow brothers.
There, in the dead of night, she sees a strange white figure. And she begins a curious friendship and starts her adventure of escape, discovery, and reclaiming what is rightfully hers.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Watts sets his Gothic tale in sparsely settled back-woods New York state, which serves as both a literal wilderness fraught with natural hazards and as a metaphor for the dark tangle of societal entrapments that confine legally powerless young women during the nation's earliest days." The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"...the author successfully builds suspense while poetically evoking an aura of mystery around Hannah and Brother Boy." Publishers Weekly

"...Hannah's voice is both lyrical and straightforward." Kirkus Reviews

Publishers Weekly
With a setting as grippingly oppressive as Watts's debut novel, Stonecutter, this 19th-century tale draws a convincing, rather grim portrait of an outcast living a "far piece from town" with her treasure-hunting father. Narrator Hannah Renner has always been shunned because of her "queerly mismatched" eyes ("Folks looked away when I opened my eyes, for the left one is as pale as nearly frozen milk, and the right one is a deep sea green"). Shortly after reaching adolescence, her father, deeply in debt, "sells" her to the uncouth Barrow brothers, who treat her like a slave. Hannah's only escape from drudgery comes at night, when she secretly meets a ghostly pale boy who calls himself Brother Boy. Tension mounts when Hannah learns that one of her "owners" plans to make her his bride. In desperation, she flees to the wilderness with Brother Boy. At the conclusion, several characters' motives seem at odds with their prior behavior, but the author successfully builds suspense while poetically evoking an aura of mystery around Hannah and Brother Boy. Ultimately the violence, lack of compassion and abandonment Hannah has experienced throughout her life makes a stronger impact than the joy she feels when freedom is within her reach. Ages 11-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Hannah lives with an alcoholic father in a run down shack miles from a crossroad frontier town south of Lake Ontario. Her one green eye and one milky eye are a source of rejection and fear by the townspeople. She is grateful to her bookish father who taught her to read. Although her father has a charcoal business, Hannah is the one who gardens for food and chops wood for warmth and cooking. When her father spends a large sum for a medal to guide him to treasure, he pays the debt by contracting Hannah to work as a servant for a year to two brutish brothers. After a day of drudgery for the brothers, Hannah becomes aware of a ghostly figure at the edge of the forest. When she learns that her father's agreement includes marrying one of the brothers, she runs off, aided by the ghost boy. In the crucial confrontation of Hannah with the brothers, she is incapable of saving herself. It is her father who miraculously turns up sober, reneges on the contract, and promises to pay by selling some land. Without naming albinism the story shows how earlier times dealt with marked physical differences. The short chapters, fluid writing, and imaginative similes such as "I fell asleep like a rock dropped into a well," or "was asleep as fast as shutting a door." make this story worth the effort. 2003, Houghton Mifflin Company, Ages 12 to 14.
— Carlee Hallman
The eerie cover, depicting the face of a young woman, one eye green and one eye white as a moonstone, sets the tone of this gothic novel by the author of Stonecutter. Wild Ride to Heaven takes place in the backwoods of New York State, in a forest so remote the nearest village is nine miles away; we don't know the era, but it seems to be the 19th century. The narrator of the story is Hannah, who lives alone with her father who makes charcoal to sell from burning the trees of the forest. Her father loves to read and dream, but this takes strange turns and makes him dissatisfied with his life and yearning for treasure that would free him. He goes so far as to "sell" his daughter Hannah to the brothers who live nearby, in denial that she would suffer in any way. The brothers are ignorant oafs who soon want to marry Hannah, and she must outwit them to escape. The forest holds mysteries, and help for Hannah in the person of Brother Boy, a younger brother of the oafs, who lives apart from his brothers because he is an albino who must avoid the sun. Hannah takes refuge in Brother Boy's camps, she begins to teach him to read, and they discover a treasure that just may satisfy Hannah's father; the tusk of a wooly mammoth. As in Stonecutter, the language of the narrator reflects the slightly archaic speech of the rural people of upstate New York. This is a sample of Hannah's tale: "As I went, even my wrath toward Pa waned. He'd been a fool. He'd always be a fool, I supposed. But he was still my pa, and I couldn't remain angry forever." The descriptions of the Northern Lights are wonderful: "....ghostly wavering lights. There was color to them, but I think not a color I'd ever seen. They turned andthrobbed and roiled like a cloud of angry smoke. But so silent, so far away.... Now the glow was pulsing like a bruise in the sky's flesh." KLIATT Codes: JS; Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2003, Houghton Mifflin, 169p.,
— Claire Rosser
Hannah lives in poverty in the backwoods of upstate New York during the early 1800s. Her mother ran off years before, leaving Hannah with her dreamer of a father who is often drunk or squandering what little money that they have. Neighbors avoid Hannah because of her strange eyes, one normal green eye and the other milky. To pay off a debt, Hannah's father sells her in servitude to two local brothers, who are cruel and demanding. While at the home of the Barrow brothers, Hannah spies a strange, pale boy in the woods. Eventually they meet and become friends, and when Hannah learns that one of the Barrow brothers plans to make her his bride, she and her friend run away. Part adventure, part historical fiction, and part gothic tale, this novel recalls the setting and themes of the author's previous book, Stonecutter (Houghton Mifflin, 2002/VOYA December 2002). Readers who enjoyed that novel will probably like this one as well. Hannah is a strong heroine, and although her life and prospects are harsh, she has some hope. The ending feels a bit anticlimactic, but this novel is to be savored more for the atmosphere than for the plot. It might not appeal to every young adult, but librarians who know their patrons will be able to put it into appreciative hands. VOYA Codes: 3Q 3P M J (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2003, Houghton Mifflin, 176p., Ages 11 to 15.
—Alice Stern
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-In her pioneering village in rural New York, Hannah, 14, is feared to be a witch or sorceress because of her milk-colored eye. An outcast, she lives with her father on a remote farm on the outskirts of town. In his obsession to find the road to riches, he sells her off to two brothers as their servant girl and perhaps, in time, as a wife to one of them. Determined to find a way out of this "contract," Hannah befriends a mysterious stranger who lives in the woods and helps her run away. Despite being an apparent victim, Hannah is a character of undeniable strength and compassion. Frustrated that her father keeps bringing on mischief and affliction, she recognizes that he is "like a child sometimes, and [she] the mother taking care of him." She is indeed the constant that holds the homestead together until her world falls apart and her father acts out of desperation. This story is peppered with a unique blend of various genres and a clear foreshadowing of a plot shrouded in mystery. However, none of these elements is fully developed. The appeal of the book lies only in the sheer will and determination of the protagonist in the face of harsh realism.-Kimberly Monaghan, formerly at Vernon Area Public Library, IL Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A shunned 14-year-old girl with different-colored eyes and a poetic first-person voice is sold to two brutish brothers in early tenth-century backwoods New York. Hannah’s father is often drunk and sometimes crazy, but although he’s not affectionate, the family of two does well together until his lust for treasure prompts him to trade Hannah for a hundred dollars. Her role as a drudge is unpleasant, but her sudden discovery that one of the brothers means to marry her is intolerable. Escaping into the woods with the help of an albino boy with a "liquid quality," Hannah finds friendship--but only short-lived safety. The brothers hunt them down, and in a potentially violent confrontation, Hannah’s father redeems himself and persuades her owners to burn up her contract. The ending is too easy and the narrative references to Indians careless, but Hannah’s voice is both lyrical and straightforward. (Fiction. 11-14)

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
12 Years

Meet the Author

Leander Watts is an author of adult nonfiction and a college English professor. His historical novels provide a welcome antidote to contemporary young adult fiction. He lives in the Genesee Valley in western New York, where he writes and teaches English literature.

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