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Book Review: Tremolo: Cry of the Loon by Aaron Lazar

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Against the idyllic backdrop of the Belgrade Lakes, a crime is committed and young Gus LeGarde sets out to hunt out the truth…

It's the summer of 1964, Maine, and 11-year old Gus and two best friends are staying with their families on the camping grounds of the Belgrade Lakes, enjoying all the things the place has to offer — swimming, boating, hiking.

But the kids' fun abruptly comes to a halt. One particularly foggy evening, as the kids barely manage to get back to the shore from the lake, they witness a scene their innocent minds aren't prepared for: a young girl, running, afraid, and a mean-looking drunk man chasing after her until they both disappear in the misty woods.

It is then that the hunt for the little girl named Sharon begins. Who was the man after her? Did he kill her? If he did, where is her body? Is she still hiding in the woods, scared to death of being discovered by her tormentor? At the risk of his own life, Gus refuses to let the investigation solely to the authorities and decides to take matter into his own hands and find out the truth.

Tremolo is a beautifully written coming-of-age story about a young boy's awakening to love and the cruelty and reality of the real world. Refusing to believe that such a heinous crime could be commited against an innocent child, Gus insists she must still be alive in the woods and thus leaves her food for her to eat. Indeed, someone is eating this food, but we don't know who this person is.

Lazar's lyrical prose sparkles with clarity and is very evoking at times, bringing to life the beauty of the setting and the genuinity of the characters. The writing is beautiful in its simplicity and some of the images stay in the reader's mind for a long time. Consider this passage, when Gus stumbles into the running girl for the first time:

"Sharon!" a man's voice roared. "Sharon, where are you?"

The girl collided with me. Staring with huge eyes, she covered a trickle of blood in the corner of her mouth. She trembled and breathed hard, silhouetted by the eerie glow of the light, clutching her torn blouse where two buttons were missing. Her palpable terror raised goose bumbs on my arms.

Before we could speak, she panicked and hopped off the trail into the woods.

A flicker of fear passed through me. 

This book is the prequel to Double Forte, which features an older Gus LeGarde. Lazar has done an excellent job creating the voice of this 11-year old protagonist. Gus' thoughts and interactions with his friends are quite realistic for his age. Here we have a protagonist who is smart, perceptive and brave, but also innocent and sadly hopeful. The pages of Tremolo vibrate with suspense and quiet melancholy.

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About Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults and has authored over a dozen books, some of which have won awards. Her stories, reviews, interviews and articles have appeared on numerous publications such as The Writer, Writer’s Journal, Multicultural Review, and Bloomsbury Review, among many others. Represented by Serendipity Literary.