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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
True North by N.L. McLaughlin is book four in the American Nomads series, preceded by book one, American Nomads, book two, Lost Boys, and book three, Imaginary Dragons. In this installment set in Florida, Finn and Teague form a bond with an elderly woman, Ruth, creating a surrogate family through fishing and survival. A hospital visit reveals Ruth's impact and prompts them to reconcile with Teague's estranged mother, Grace. As they return to Presquile and scratch beneath the surface of family history, shocking truths about someone's biological family surface in Gainesville, Texas. The group faces danger in the Nevada desert and a confrontation that reveals one person's true identity. After a traumatic event, Finn recovers with Teague by his side, but it remains to be seen whether or not too much has occurred for the positive transformations the Nomad family needs for a tranquil life.
I went into True North by N.L. McLaughlin without having read the prior books in the series, and while I was able to become fully immersed in the American Nomads world, I did see that I had robbed myself of the pleasure of its lead-up. Despite the summary I gave, there are plenty more characters than Teague and Finn, and all of them are fully fleshed out. We are given a deep insight into characters, like Beth and Daniel. Beth's internal conflict and fear are palpable, while Daniel's history and motivations are peeled back wonderfully. This particular scene also explores moral gray areas, challenging perceptions of right and wrong. I mean, we know it's wrong but we still get it. McLaughlin's writing style uses almost cinematic landscape descriptions that juxtapose analogies to the situations themselves. There is one where the barren and harsh environment of the desert mirrors what's being faced, while a clinic becomes a crucial battleground for survival. That contrast between the harsh external elements and the controlled environment is exceptionally well-balanced and a testament to McLaughlin's skill at layered writing. Very highly recommended.