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Desperate Journey

Review

Desperate Journey

Twelve-year-old Maggie Haggerty has only known one kind of life --- life on the Erie Canal. She and her mother, father, uncle, nine-year-old brother Eamon, a cat and four mules all live on a boat hauling supplies and cargo up and down the Erie Canal. Even though this is all Maggie has known, she somehow feels a bit lost and left out, as if she doesn't belong. She often daydreams about living in one of the many towns they pass along the Canal, or even someday visiting the big city of New York; maybe she'd fit in someplace else. However, even feeling as misplaced as she does, Maggie is still terrified that the family might lose their boat.

They had to take out a loan last November after Maggie's dad got into a fight and lost all of their money. And even though Mr. Haggerty does get into numerous scuffles, they are only for good causes, like defending his family and friends or standing up to a bully. The fight in November involved a bully named Long-fingered John, and the family has never fully recovered. A dark cloud seems to hover over everyone in the boat, and Maggie misses the confident and cheerful father she used to have. Now their loan payment is due soon, and the family must push aside the gloom to deliver their bonus cargo on time --- all the way at the other end of the Erie Canal.

But before they go too far, Long-fingered John makes another stab at the family. He accuses Maggie's father and uncle of attacking one of his crew members, knocking him unconscious with little hope for recovery. The sheriff arrives to arrest the two Mr. Haggertys, dragging them off to jail.

Maggie and her mom and brother have no choice but to plow ahead with the cargo as fast as possible to collect the bonus by themselves. But a mere three people, including one who is only nine and another who is feeling almost constantly sick, are a poor match for the Canal and her perilous obstacles. Maggie quickly learns the importance of putting aside the petty arguments with her brother, plugging on way past exhaustion and entrusting in the kindness of strangers --- all for the love of her family and their way of life.

Author Jim Murphy proves his amazing writing skills yet again with DESPERATE JOURNEY, in which he brings to life an important part of American history. This exciting, page-turning adventure is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman on October 1, 2006

Desperate Journey
by Jim Murphy

  • Publication Date: October 1, 2006
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press
  • ISBN-10: 0439078067
  • ISBN-13: 9780439078061