This book, written for "young adults", can be read and appreciated by people of any age. It is both unsentimental and uncompromising, yet positive in its outlook; and although it certainly has no "happy ending" it leaves the reader with a sense of hope both for the book's young hero and humanity in general. It concerns a young boy who is forced rather suddenly to confront the problems of growing up and facing a rather impersonal and uncaring adult world that offers no concessions to his youth and inexperience.This fourteen-year-old boy, Burl Crow, lives in northern Canada with his violent bully of a father and his defeated mother who has retreated into a haze of comforting medication, and is no longer able to intervene to help her son in his struggle to survive his father's abuse. Eventually the boy flees his intolerable situation and runs away from home into the forest wilderness where, although he knows a fair deal about survival in the bush, he realises he is too young to survive alone and unaided. But here, in a cottage by a lake, he encounters 'the Maestro', a strange and reclusive musician who is trying to escape from the pressures of his woldwide fame and the conventions of city life by losing himself in the solitude of the North , where he can think, compose music, and breathe free of the unwanted intrusions of society.This strange and somewhat eccentric man (the character is definitely based on the great Canadian pianist Glenn Gould; all the ideas, mannerisms and idiosyncrasies are his although the author has admitted he changed the name to avoid any disputes or restrictions imposed by the lawyers of Gould's estate) is persuaded somewhat reluctantly to offer shelter to the young boy, and they strike up an odd and hesitant friendship that you feel will ultimately benefit both the inexperienced boy who has learnt the hard way to hide his feelings and trust nobody, and the lonely and admittedly eccentric older man who obviously has problems relating to other human beings yet lives passionately for his art. Both have trouble understanding the other, yet a certain respect and acceptance grows between them, and the reader feels that the boy even begins to feel a kind of exasperated love for his awkward companion that he could never feel for his real father. What happens next has a feeling of inevitability. It is sad, even tragic, and by the end of the book the reader is left with a vast regret for the loss of something wonderful and irreplaceable; the boy is forced against his will into action to save the abusive father who returns into his life, and thereby loses a great dream he had for the future.But his encounter with the Maestro, although uncompromising and not perhaps helpful in a practical or protective way, has changed him forever and given him the power to face the future with strength and confidence. This is a positive book, although disturbing in parts. The relationship it depicts makes the reader consider that there are ways of changing and evolving and helping each other that are subtle and perhaps not easy to express in words; the author shows how this can come about simply by two people experiencing and respecting each other without really intervening actively with each others lives. Burl Crow has to grow up depending on his own thoughts and decisions, without relying on anyone in the outside world to help, yet he is enabled to do this largely by a chance encounter with a very strange and wonderful man...so we are left with a sense of hope after all. Read this book. You will be glad you did.