In 1996, then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton published her iconic book on child-rearing, It Takes a Village, which emphasized the necessity not only of good parenting, but also of unconventional families, of communities coming together to support children and of the many kinds of people that can make all the difference in a child’s life. Rarely has there been a better example of that message than Wrecker, a big-hearted novel about a boy who finds love and acceptance in an unlikely home.

Born in San Francisco in 1965 to a troubled single mother, Wrecker has enough problems early in life to warrant his unconventional name. But when he is just three years old, his mother is sent to jail for such a long time that she won’t be eligible for parole until Wrecker is grown. After a brief stint in the foster system, he is sent to distant relatives deep in rural Humboldt County, California. He arrives scared, angry and wild, barely speaking but constantly running, unable to trust anyone. But soon he finds a family in a group of misfits who had never imagined raising a child—stoic uncle Len, his convalescent wife Meg, and Ruth, Willow, Melody and Johnny Appleseed, the neighbors at Bow Farm who have all left more conventional lives to live together in a commune.

As a novel, Wrecker lacks a certain level of sophistication and complexity. But the author, a foster mother herself, writes with a warmth and compassion that radiates from her pages. It’s impossible not to fall in love with Wrecker as he grows up, and perhaps more importantly, with his family—not only the many who took him in and made sacrifices for his well-being, but also the mother who, despite her mistakes, always loved him and missed so much of the way that he became a man. 

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