Pat Cummings’ Trace (2019)

TraceA series of interrelated events assemble to create a haunting tale of intergenerational salvation in Pat Cummings’ debut middle-grade novel Trace. The title character loses his loving parents in a car crash that he miraculously survives and mistakenly blames himself for causing.

Trace moves to Brooklyn to live with his aunt, Lea, an artsy and kind woman who doesn’t have much experience with children but makes up for it with compassion.

At his new school, Trace is slow to make friends, although when assigned to a group presenting about the 1860s in his history class, he forms motley alliances that develop into friendships with his groupmates Ty, Presley, and Kali. Then when researching for this project at the library, he gets lost and sees a ghost as well as a kind man, Dallas, who ends up becoming an important part of his life. What seems like chance encounters are actually exquisitely scripted as spiritual and material realms become increasingly intertwined.

This is a wonderfully entertaining read with a racially and ethnically diverse cast of characters, beautifully rendered urban setting, and subtle engagement with current and historical social issues that conjure parallels between historical and contemporary racial realities.

I’m certainly looking forward to Cummings next middle-grade novel – here’s hoping one’s in the works!

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