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Reviewed by Trudi LoPreto for Readers' Favorite
The Only Way Home is a walk through 1933 and the Great Depression with 15-year-old Robert and 17-year-old Tucker who he meets on the road. Robert and Tucker have both left their homes in hopes of finding work as they travel the rails. They spend many nights sleeping in uncomfortable boxcars, heading to a new town and a new opportunity. Robert and Tucker often are hungry, without shelter, and in danger of the ‘bulls”, aka the police, locking them up if they get caught jumping off the freight trains. The boys also have good days meeting people who want to help and offer them a warm barn to sleep in, a hearty meal, and a hard labor job. Robert suffers and struggles through it all with his end goal of having earned some money to bring home to his mother and siblings. Tucker’s story is different; his father has told him he had to leave and find work because he could not afford for Tucker to stay at home any longer. Both boys form a quick and tight bond watching out for each other in all ways.
The Only Way Home by Jeanette Minniti is a sad story of the times but there are also some uplifting moments of sharing, friendship, and caring. Robert and Tucker showed a huge amount of courage and determination and never gave up on themselves or the journey to get to the end of the road; for Robert to get back with his family and for Tucker in finding a job and just surviving. I was not alive yet and had only second-hand knowledge of the struggles of the 1930s but this book brought it to life and, as I read, it was impossible not to feel the fear and pain of the times. The Only Way Home should be required reading for young and old. Jeanette Minniti has written a winner.