by Robert D. Hale
This is a book I found browsing in a public library one day many, many years ago. I read it several times from the library, then finally acquired my own copy. The Elm at the Edge of the Earth is the story of a young boy growing up in a most curious circumstance. His mother being ill, David is sent to live with his Aunt Maude, who is head cook at the County Home. This nearly self-sustaining farm is home to a hundred and sixty people who don't fit into society for one reason or another- some have physical handicaps, mental disabilities or illness, others have been "put away" for misconduct. Although it is never clearly explained (since everything is seen through the eyes of a child), the Home seems to fill roles of Social Services, mental institution and orphanage all in one. David roams the buildings and landscape making unlikely friends such as Rose, committed for killing her husband, and Adeline, a black girl who practices voodoo. He raises ducks and causes trouble, struggles in school, tries to deal with bullies, and thoroughly enjoys life. David accepts everyone as they are, innocent to the prejudices and antipathies many of the people he encounters have against each other. While his aunt can't always keep track of him, David finds friendship and guidance from other residents of the Home- some whose advice and teaching aren't exactly conventional. The Elm at the Edge of the Earth is a touching, often amusing story. It looks at human nature from the inside out- through the eyes of an innocent boy learning about life from some uncommon people who care about him deeply, each in their own way.
Rating: 3/5 ........ 351 pages, 1990