CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 34. . . . May 4, 2018
In Missing Mike, a free verse novel, Green takes readers into a wildfire scenario much like that experienced by the residents of Fort McMurry in 2016, an event that was viewed by Canadians across the country via various television or online news outlets.
The above “excerpt” is taken from the book’s opening page. It’s summer holidays, and Cara, accompanied by her dog Mike, is enjoying riding through the forest trails on her new mountain bike, the bike being an early eleventh birthday present from her parents. The dog’s full name is Mike Wazowski, and two summers ago Cara had rescued him from an animal shelter. Cara had chosen that name because, like his Monsters, Inc namesake, Mike had only one eye, a situation which, along with a missing bit of an ear, Cara attributed to Mike’s probably having fought with coyotes.
The closing sentence of the excerpt sees Cara anticipating a typical carefree summer holiday, but that scenario abruptly changes when everyone in Cara’s town of Pine Grove, which had been on fire evacuation notice, is ordered to leave the community immediately. With Mike nowhere to be found, a distraught Cara is forced to join her parents and older sister Sloan as they and a caravan of evacuees make the perilous three hour drive through the fire-ravaged landscape to the safety of an evacuation centre in another city.
The rest of the novel spans some two and a half weeks as Cara’s family is housed by the Bains family until the quartet can safely return to Pine Grove. Of course, central to the plot is Cara’s concern about Mike, and, with the assistance of the Bains’ 13-year-old foster daughter Jewel, Cara even engineers a plot, albeit unsuccessful, to return to Pine Grove so that she can search for Mike. Perhaps more important to the story is Cara’s new and growing understanding of the meaning of the word “home”. As Cara interacts with fellow evacuees and others in this temporary “home”, she comes to realize through their experiences that the words “house” and “home” are not synonymous and that, while the physical house structure may have burned, that reality does not equate with her not having a home..
Green ends Missing Mike with some closure (Mike has survived) but also with a number of unknowns regarding the family’s future because of the fire’s larger, long term impact on the community of Pine Grove and its inhabitants..
Green’s choosing to tell this story via free verse was the correct stylistic decision. Her descriptions, particularly those dealing with the evacuation, are absolutely gripping. There’s much to like in Missing Mike. Green also authored two other verse novels, Root Beer Candy and Other Miracles and Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess.
Dave Jenkinson, CM’s editor, lives in Winnipeg, MB.