Adult readers, don’t be dissuaded by the middle-grade designation for Into the Wind (One Elm Books) by William Loizeaux. Yes, the first person narration is that of Rusty, a boy in the summer before he enters the sixth grade. As such, the middle school label is appropriate. However, Rusty’s summer sidekick is a crazy old lady named Hazel, and the tenderness of their relationship will appeal to readers of all ages who appreciate the inherent beauty of a friendship that crosses generations — those who value what each generation has to share with the other. 

Into the Wind also harkens back to simpler times. The novel’s lack of modern technology, its island setting and sailing adventures give it a nostalgic feel that will especially appeal to adult readers. 

The novel begins with Rusty: Poor Rusty is facing a rough summer. He’s in summer school because he failed math; his mother has left for a residential treatment program for depression; and his older sister is taking her angst out on him. Rusty distracts himself from his worry and misery by fixing up a sailboat and teaching himself to sail. 

WHEN LIFE HANDS THIS AWKWARD TWEEN A WACKY OLD LADY …

It is through this newfound passion that Rusty encounters Hazel, who introduces herself with an adamant request for a ride in Rusty’s sailboat. Rusty, though, is uncomfortable with the entire scenario in part because Hazel is in a wheelchair, posing both safety and logistical concerns, but also because she’s a wacky stranger, and he’s a typical awkward tween. So, he refuses.

Hazel doesn’t let go easily and hires Rusty to help her with odd jobs. And that’s when the old lady works her magic: Hazel acts as a sort of adopted grandmother to Rusty, nurturing him and providing stability in the absence of his mother. She pushes him to seek adventure and not to fear life. 

As we get to know Hazel, we come to appreciate her independence, spunk and forthrightness. We also learn to see past her limitations and admire her determination. For Hazel, Rusty provides a last taste of youth, companionship and the satisfaction that comes with feeling needed. 

Occasionally, life throws together two people at just the right time, the perfect companions for life’s challenges. For Rusty and Hazel, this relationship is one of those times. Life also has a way of throwing the right book into the right hands at the right time. I suspect this tender novel will be one of those books for some readers.

Buy this book!

William Loizeaux was born and raised in New Jersey, forty miles from New York City. He earned his B.A. in English and History from Colgate University, and it was there, in a Herman Melville seminar led by fiction writer Frederick Busch, where his interest in creative writing and its power to amuse, inform, and move a reader, was born. Bill went on to earn an M.A. in American Studies at the University of Michigan, where he met the woman who would become his wife. He started at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, MD, then did a semester as Visiting Writer at Arizona State University, and for more than a decade was a faculty member and Writer-in-Residence at Johns Hopkins University.

With Into the Wind, Bill has returned to children’s fiction, a novel inspired by his childhood friendship with a sometimes prickly but always imaginative aunt who loved painting and sailing. Bill recently retired as Writer-in-Residence in the Department of English at Boston University. He lives with his wife in Washington, DC.