The Way Back Round: Brenda Sorrels
Freedom: the right to live your life as you please and enjoy the world in your own way. But, sometimes that is not an option as Jake Frye learns. The Way Back Round takes place in the 1930’s in Minnesota. Jake loves horses and at a young age enjoyed sitting between his father’s legs and handle the wagon team. However an accident would change it all as a large buck storms in the path and Jake falls from his seat. Jake’s mother is over protective and does not want him to drive the wagon or the team of horses. She’s afraid he will get hurt. No matter how hard he pleads and even with his father’s encouragement his mother will not relent. Added in she is plagued with several miscarriages making her even more overprotective of her only living child. But, something would change the dynamics of their family as young Edwin is born bringing joy back into their lives. Edwin adored Jake and would follow him around. Only wanting his older brother to feed him his mother would become annoyed when Edwin was indulged claiming she had no time for foolishness. Jake’s anger and desire to be like the rest of his friends finally wins out but a tragic accident that cost his brother his life would set him apart from his family. Riddled with guilt and not able to cope with his mother’s anger and devoid of any kindness towards him, Jake leaves in the middle of the night leaving a stark and simple note stating he can no longer live there anymore.
This is a volatile time period and many young men decided to leave home during this time period called the Depression and ride the rails hoping to get work. Jake knows little about how to hop on a rail and meeting Franz Mueller would be his salvation. Runaways need to protect each other from many who would harm them. Those in charge of the orchards or cotton fields often send hard messages to runaways and the treatment is not always kind. But, both Franz and Jake are fortunate to meet Angel and his wife who befriend them, supply them with food but work too. Picking fruit and then moving to Texas becoming cotton pickers readers get a first hand look at what many migrant workers endure and the discrimination many have against them. Leaving the orchards and hoping a rail they meet up with some gypsies and realize that sometimes not everyone is who or what they seem. Leading them to Texas they meet up with Mo, a black man who shows them more than just kindness but the ropes too.
Jake’s mistake would haunt him forever but the reality of what he did was an accident. Soup kitchens, “Jungle” camps and the railroad Bulls who oversee the tracks, both Jack and Franz learn some hard lessons along the way. But, friendship and loyalties run high as these two young men join forces to survive. The kindness of strangers helps keep them alive. Food is scarce and hard to come by and only by asking for help do they survive. Not everyone is kind, understanding and soon both boys deal with the Bulls in charge of the rails, the rudeness, and prejudice and abuse that some many endured and could not combat. With the help of a hobo named Mo both Jake and Franz learn more about living on the run, having to fend for themselves and realizing that they both wish they could live parts of their lives over again.
As the opportunities for work seemed slim and the hope for meeting a redheaded girl was Franz’s dream both young men realized that it was time to move on. Meeting up with Angel and his family they learned that he would soon be moving back to Mexico and with the help of the President of Mexico receive his own piece of land. Jake wants a family and Franz had his own hopes and desires when a farmer tells them about Roosevelt’s Conservation Corps where they have structure, routine, serve their country. Heading for California they work in the camp, spend their free time with two young girls named Bonnie and Linae. Every town has its own hangout and Arnies is where they find themselves. Young servicemen and those working in the camp enjoy cold beer and other comfort food. But, Bonnie is sweet and Linae, what you might call loud, brass and definitely the opposite as she aims her sights at being a movie star. Thinking that she’s the one for him Franz stakes his claim but joining up to serve in the war is next for both young men. Enlisting, dealing with strong battles, as WWII moves on and the hope to reunite with his family a dim light for Jake. But, the war takes its toll on so many and when it’s over the horrific sights he sees would stay within for a long time. As his regiment comes upon concentration camp survivors the author graphically describes the people, what was done to them and the hope that some might be saved. The Way Back Round is a sad story of what happens when words fail, families are torn apart and a young 13 year old teen finds his way on his own. The choices we make are the ones that will impact our lives and we own them. The people Jake and Franz meet along the way prove that not everyone is judgmental, some understand and most showed them some kindness. But, within his mind Jake could not forget his mother, father little Edwin and living on the farm. Home they say is where the heart is so will Jake find his way back round?
The Depression left many with jobs, food and shelter. As Jake and Franz ride the rails, live through many years on the road, enlist in the army something happens that will change it for them both. Franz is missing in action and presumed dead but Jake refuses to believe it. Not believing that he was killed he searches the army hospital for the person wearing his dog tags and learns that the body that is about to die does not belong to Franz. When the truth about what happened to him comes out and Linae’s real feelings for Franz revealed the author provides an ending that will bring tears to the reader’s eyes, hope in your heart and questions that might never be answered. An ending that will surprise the reader and a family that needs to be healed. What will happen if Jake returns home? How will his father react? What about his little brother and sister? How will they feel about meeting Jake?
Told in the first person in Jake’s voice the reader gets to hear what he thinks, what he is going through, what his hope for the future might be and what questions he still has about where he belongs. An ending that will make you wonder if the author is going to tell the story even further letting readers know what happens to Franz after Jake leaves him and what the future holds for Jake. Before Jake can deal with his present he needs to forgive himself for the past. Accidents happen. Mistakes are made. Headstrong and head on he decides to leave and live one day at a time. What would have happened if he had stayed? What might have been different? The Way Back Round: What happens when someone comes full circle? This is a great book for YA’s, parents who need to understand that actions and words hurt and can distance a child, discussion groups with young readers and anyone that anyone that loves a great story. Once again author Brenda Sorrels pens a story that is true to life, realistic with characters that are believable and unique. Take the trip to the 1930’s and meet Jake and Franz, ride the rails along with them, meet Angel, Mo and the many people that helped and guided them along the way. Enter the battle fields in Germany, fight for your country along side of them and find your way back round.
Fran Lewis: Reviewer