Top critical review
LITTLE BOY BLUE...
on February 3, 2007
Since I have always been fascinated by the Amish and their lifestyle, and I also enjoy true crime stories, I was drawn to this book. Moreover, I remembered the story People magazine did many years ago regarding the young boy, wearing a blue sleeper, whose lifeless body had been found near a corn field in Nebraska in the dead of winter. Abandoned and discarded by the one entrusted with his care, this unknown boy, named "Little Boy Blue", stirred the hearts of the hearts of the citizens of Chester, Nebraska, who gave him a formal burial. The heart of the nation was also stirred by the People magazine article, as its citizens wondered aloud as to the identity of this little boy.
It would be sometime before that question was answered. "Little Boy Blue" turned out to be nine year old Danny Stutzman, a young boy whose angelic countenance belied a life of abuse and neglect at the hands of his father, Eli Stutzman, a man who turned his back on his Amish inheritance and left a trail of dead bodies in his wake. After the suspicious death of his Amish wife, Ida, Eli eventually abandoned all that he knew and adopted the lifestyle of the non-Amish. He also came out of the closet, as he was gay, something not tolerated by the Amish.
This is a well-researched book, but I was disappointed by it. Perhaps my expectations were too high, but I felt that this was definitely not the author's best work, however potentially compelling the story. I found the writing to be sub-par, often choppy. While highly detailed, some of the details came across as needless clutter, as they were not particularly relevant to the state of affairs that was propelling Danny and others to their doom.
In addition, there was a certain homophobic ring to the author's prose that was disconcerting and off-putting. There is little doubt that Eli Stutzman was a dysfunctional human being and an abusive parent that exposed his young son to adult behavior that clearly was not in the best interest of the child. He did not, however, act this way towards his son because he was gay. He acted this way because he was a seriously disturbed human being. Unfortunately, from the author's writing one might infer that it was Eli Stutzman's sexual orientation that was at the heart of the murders and Danny's tragic end.
Despite the many rave reviews of this book, I found it mediocre fare, at best. Still, fans of the true crime genre might want to give it a whirl.