Publication date: 2004
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The Good Oak
Thirteen-year-old Matt Echbar is angry at the world. His widowed father is too busy for him, and his grandfather is an embarrassment, an unschooled Basque shepherd whose language and customs are completely alien to Matts all-American lifestyle. Things get worse when the grandfather steals a flock of sheep and dragoons Matt into helping him drive them to a secret camp in the Arizona mountains.
The ensuing adventure is one of the most compelling and delightful coming-of-age novels in recent fiction. As Matt and his aitatxi, accompanied by their two faithful sheepdogs, drive the flock across the burgeoning suburbs of Phoenix and into the remote mountains, the boy learns the ancient skills of the sheepherder and discovers the unexpected wisdom that has given his Old Country grandfather the strength and patience of a sturdy oak. By the time the journey reaches its fateful conclusion, Matt has developed a new bond with the old man and has learned that true manhood includes accepting ones heritage.
"Martin Etchart has given us that rare thing: a heartfelt book written with clear beauty. The Good Oak is not only about the New West, it is about the oldest verity: the value of family. . . . This is a story to treasure." Ron Carlson, author of the story collection A Kind of Flying