Heart of a Shepherd

Review by Suzanne Thomas

Usually, when I begin a new book, I tell myself I’ll read the first three or four chapters, or I’ll read for an hour before I stop to complete a task or turn out the light! I started reading "The Heart of a Shepherd" by Roseanne Parry while on a bus trip to Chicago last November. It was on the list of books for selection for this year’s Mark Twain Nominees. I planned to read a few chapters each day of the trip, but quickly found myself wanting to know more about this ranch family as I made connections with the characters. I kept reading, afraid for what might happen to the father stationed with the military in Iraq, or the brothers who were leaving home to follow in their father’s footsteps. I wanted to find out why their mother didn’t live with them on the ranch. I relished the family’s commitment to the ranch and their respect for each other. I put the book down just a couple of chapters shy of the ending, because events during a ranch fire made me too emotional to read further.

Brother, the youngest of three sons, stays home to watch over the family sheep ranch while his father is serving in Iraq, and his older brothers follow in their father‘s footsteps with the military and college. Brother’s grandparents are at the ranch with him. With the help of hired hands, they keep the ranch running. Brother wonders if he, too, will join the military someday. But, he has great compassion for the animals on the ranch. It is after a sad turn of events that Brother comes to realize his calling in life, and ultimately he finds his choice accepted by his father.

This is a wonderful read for boys, and a great coming-of-age story for boys, too. Brother’s character has a sweetness about him, as well as solid determination, rarely faltering in his responsibilities.

I’ve recommended this 2011-2012 Mark Twain nominee to many colleagues, and each time they return the book telling me how much they enjoyed reading it – the book becomes a new "must read"! A great read doesn’t have to be by a well-known author, and it doesn’t have to have a complex story-line. "Heart of a Shepherd" is a beautifully written, simple story about love of family, commitment to each other, and finding out what you are meant to be in life.

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