CCBC's Best Books for Kids & Teens (Fall 2015) Commended
When Dani sets out to uncover her father’s past, she also discovers her own future.
Raised by her mother, eighteen-year-old Dani Lancaster only had six weeks to get to know her father, Sam, before he lost his battle with cancer. It was long enough to love him, but not long enough to get to know him especially since Sam didn't even know himself.
Left on the doorstep of an elderly couple when he was just days old, and raised in a series of foster homes, Sam had no idea who his parents were or why they had abandoned him. Dani is determined to find out. With nothing more than an address book, an old letter, and a half-heart pendant to guide her, she sets out on a solo road trip that takes her deep into the foothills, to a long-forgotten town teeming with secrets and hopefully answers.
About the Author
Kristin Butcher is the author of twenty-three books for children. She has been shortlisted for the Silver Birch Award, the CLA Children's Book of the Year, the Red Cedar Award, the IODE Violet Downey Book Award, and the Manitoba Young Reader's Choice Award, among others. Kristin lives in Campbell River, British Columbia.
Read an Excerpt
Sam died on November 11th. Remembrance Day. Like I could ever forget.
It’s been four months already, but my feelings are still raw, simmering just below the surface, ready to bubble over all the time. The littlest things make me cry a baseball commercial, a cooking program, the cowboy boots in my closet. Anything even remotely related to Sam sets me off. Anything. It’s dumb I know, but I can’t help it. Sam was my father. I can’t just get over him. Mom says healing takes time, but I have a feeling nothing less than a miracle is going to get me past this.
I don’t want to accept that Sam’s gone. I still think I’m going to see him again. If I hop on a bus for Webb’s River, he’ll be waiting outside the motel at the other end tall and skinny, all blue jeans and cowboy hat, his smile hiding behind that huge moustache, his piercing black eyes looking right through me. I hold the memory of him tight to my heart. Sam and I only had one summer together, but he changed my whole life.
I look down at the letter in my hand. Dear Miss Lancaster. I’ve already read it twice, but my brain is too fried to make sense of the words. Either that or legalese is a foreign language. The logo at the top is impressive, though lots of scrollwork and gold lettering. Morgan, Munson, and Bradley, Barristers and Solicitors. Aren’t barristers and solicitors the same thing? The letter is from Mr. R.A. Morgan. I wonder what the R and A stand for. Reginald Alfred? Rupert Angus? What about Rowland Ames? I run a few more lawyer-type names through my head, but I can’t settle on anything I like so I abandon Mr. Morgan’s name and turn my attention back to his letter.
This time it sinks in. I have to read around a bunch of hereinafters, in as much ases, gift causa mortises, and remaindermans, but I get the general idea. Bottom line Sam left his estate to me, but there are papers to be signed before Mr. Morgan can turn it over. He doesn’t say what it is I’m inheriting, but I assume it’s Sam’s trailer, truck, and land. If he had anything else, I don’t know about it.
The only problem is the lawyer is in Kamloops and I’m in Vancouver. That means a road trip. I could take the bus or a plane, but then I’d have no transportation when I got there. Of course, I have no car either, but a vehicle has been on my wish list ever since I got my driver’s license. The savings account my mom started when I was born and turned over to me on my last birthday could make that happen.
As for how long it will take to go and come back, that doesn’t matter. I fast-tracked my way through high school and finished at the end of January, the day I turned eighteen. Two of life’s milestones in one swoop. Anyway, until I start university next fall, my time is my own. I was going to look for a part-time job, but that can wait until after I meet with the lawyer. The only thing that might stand in my way is my mother.
“If we book an appointment with the lawyer, we can return the same day,” she says when I tell her my plan. “There are lots of flights between Kamloops and Vancouver.”
I shake my head. “You’re not listening to me, Mom. This is something I want to do on my own. It’s between Sam and me,” I say.
She clucks her tongue and rolls her eyes. “Only you could romanticize something like this. We’re talking lawyers, Dani. You are barely eighteen. You have no experience with something like this.”
What she says is true, and I am a bit nervous about tackling it by myself, but I’m not about to admit that to her. “Sam had a will. All I have to do is sign some papers.”
“And then what?”
“What do you mean?”
“After you sign the papers, then what will you do?”
I scowl. “I don’t know. I guess it depends on what’s in Sam’s will.”
“According to the letter from Mr. Morgan, Sam left you everything. That would be his property, his trailer, and all its contents.”
“And Lizzie,” I add.
Mom cocks her head quizzically.
“His truck,” I explain.
She nods impatiently. “Whatever. What are you going to do with all these things?”
“Do I have to do something with them?”
“Are you saying you want to keep them?”
“I don’t know. I can’t decide that yet. I have to live with the idea a bit. What’s the rush?”
Mom shuts her eyes. When she opens them again, they are shiny with unshed tears, and I am reminded that she loved Sam too. Though they never married and they split up before I was even born, I’m pretty sure part of her never got over him, and I know he never got over her. The only thing that came out of their relationship was me.
“Joanna, maybe Dani has a point,” my stepdad, Reed, says. Until now, he’s been sitting in the corner, saying nothing. “There really isn’t a need to steamroll through this. Let Dani collect her inheritance and think on it for a while. What’s the harm? We’re talking land and a trailer.”
My mother jumps right back into the fight. “And this nonsense about a car and driving to Kamloops?”
Reed licks his lips. “To tell you the truth, I think it’s time Dani got a car. In the fall she’ll be off to university and she can’t always be relying on public transit.”
Mom leaps out of her chair, waving her arms. “You think it’s a good idea for her to drive across the province by herself?”
Reed holds up his hands. “That’s not what I said.”
“Well, that’s what it sounded like.”
“Just hear me out okay? What if I help Dani choose a car? I’ll make sure it’s mechanically sound. Make sure it’s not a lemon. Make sure she doesn’t get ripped off. How would that be?”
My mother looks slightly mollified, but not completely. “I still don’t want her driving to Kamloops alone. She’s never driven outside Vancouver, for God’s sake!”
Reed nods. “True. So what if I went with her?”
This time both Mom and I open our mouths to protest, but Reed shakes his head and continues talking, so we shut them again.
“I need to make a trip to the interior anyway. Remember, I said I wanted to set up a more central distribution centre for my brewery?”
I have no clue what he’s talking about, but Mom nods.
“Well, there are a couple of locations on the way to Kamloops that I need to take a look at. We can kill two birds with one stone. I can take care of my business, and Dani can have company on her drive.” He smiles at me. “Will that work for you, Dani?”
I nod. In a way I’m sort of relieved. The idea of driving all that way by myself was a little intimidating.
Reed turns to Mom. “And what about you?”
She frowns. “How long will you be gone?”
“Not more than a couple of days. I’ll fly home.”
Mom looks alarmed. “And what about Dani? How’s she going to get back?”
“Drive?” I offer sarcastically.
Mom’s mouth thins into a hard line. “I don’t want you driving alone. It’s only March. There could be snow.”
Reed sighs. “Okay. So how about when Dani is finished everything she needs to do, one of us flies to Kamloops and drives back with her? We can play it by ear.”
Mom shakes her head and scowls. “I don’t like it.”
“Mother,” I protest, “I’m not a child, you know. In fact, I don’t even need your permission to do this. I’m eighteen an adult.”
Reed sits back in his chair. His lips tremble as he tries to hide a smile. “She’s got you there, Joanna.”
Reed takes me vehicle shopping the very next day, and at the second car lot I fall in love with a little silver Honda Civic. It’s about eight years old but there’s not a scratch on it. So we get it checked out by a mechanic. Once it gets the okay from him, Reed and the car dealer start doing the let’s-make-a-deal dance. I am totally fascinated listening to them dicker over the price and what it should include. Finally, they settle on a number, I sign a bunch of papers and hand over a huge chunk of my bank account, and voilà: I am a car owner.
Next on the agenda, I make an appointment to see the lawyer, and two days after that Reed and I are on the road. I’m so excited, I don’t even mind getting up while it’s still dark. Instead of travelling the Coquihalla Highway, which is the most direct way to get to Kamloops, we take the southerly route through Hope and Princeton into the Okanagan Valley, because that’s the area Reed needs to check out.
Even at seven in the morning, there are a ton of cars on the highway, so to placate Mom, Reed navigates the Civic out of the city. Then I take over. It feels great to be driving my own vehicle. At Princeton we stop for a late breakfast, and then Reed takes the wheel again.
The locations he’s interested in are tiny towns between Princeton and Kelowna.
“I would’ve thought you’d be looking to put your distribution centre in a big city,” I say.
“It needs to be near a city, but out of the way is actually more convenient, as long as there’s easy access to a major highway. That way I have a better chance of getting the space I need at a price I’m willing to pay. It means less congestion too. Mostly the brewery relies on big trucks, and semi-drivers aren’t fond of manoeuvring through city streets. They prefer wide-open spaces.”
“So did you see anything that’ll work?”
He shrugs. “Nothing that blew my socks off. But I’m not in a rush. I’ll keep looking.”
It’s suppertime when we finally get to Kamloops and pull into the parking lot of the hotel Mom booked for us. It’s in the centre of downtown, and judging from the polished wood, sparkling chandeliers, and massive floral arrangements, it’s pretty high-end. If it was up to me, I would have found an inexpensive motel, which when I stop to think about it is probably why Mom booked us into this place. It’s her way of keeping me safe and under her wing. She also volunteered to pay for it, so who am I to argue?
Reed and I eat in the hotel dining room, complete with white linen, crystal, and gleaming silver. All I want is a hamburger, but that isn’t even on the menu so I have seared halibut instead.
And that’s when I run out of gas. Instead of recharging my batteries, dinner wipes me out completely. I can barely keep my eyes open through dessert.
“Go to bed,” Reed laughs. “You’ve had a long day.”
“Are you going to your room too?”
“In a while. My flight to Vancouver doesn’t leave until noon tomorrow, and there’s a lot of evening left. I think I’ll go to the bar for a nightcap and call your mother to let her know we arrived safely.”
“Okay,” I say. “Tell her hi for me. See you in the morning.” Then I give him a peck on the cheek and stumble off to my room.
Table of Contents
- Chapter 1
- Chapter 2
- Chapter 3
- Chapter 4
- Chapter 5
- Chapter 6
- Chapter 7
- Chapter 8
- Chapter 9
- Chapter 10
- Chapter 11
- Chapter 12
- Chapter 13
- Chapter 14
- Chapter 15
- Chapter 16
- Chapter 17
- Chapter 18
- Chapter 19
- Chapter 20
- Chapter 21