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Letters to Juniper
by Peggy Tibbetts
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Rating:
Reviewed by: John L. Hoh, Jr.

Sarah is a 12-year-old girl living with her father as a Separatist. There is a separatist group nearby, but Sarah's father refuses to join that group. He seems to be a rugged individualist.

Letters to Juniper begins with Sarah's dad, Dalton, being confronted by the Feds about some gun sales. It seems he had sold a sawed-off shotgun to an undercover federal agent. Now they want Sarah's dad to become an informant against the separatist group where he has done gun business with the members.

Sarah is under the impression her mother died in a car accident six years previous, after her parents divorced. As Sarah has no friends to play or socialize with, she begins writing letters to a childhood friend she remembers in the mists of her memory. She's not sure where Juniper lives, or how to get the letters to Juniper as she rarely gets into town, much less the post office.

Sarah and her dad live with Shelly, Dalton's "common law" wife, her brother Abraham, Shelly's son Travis, and Joseph, the son between Dalton and Shelly. They now live near Bonner's Ferry in Idaho. Through her letters Sarah lets us know that the family traveled around before arriving at Bonner's Ferry. We get a glimpse into the life of Sarah and her family. There are secrets and suspicions. Sarah hears from some of the Separatist group that they suspect Dalton may have struck a deal with the feds. After a night in jail Dalton and Shelly are seen in Sam's Club (the arrest occurred when Dalton and Shelly had gone into town to shop at Sam's Club).

Sarah also meets her first love, if you can call it that. Kurt is a neo-Nazi who is part of the separatist group.

Dalton also has some interesting religious views. There is a Bible study every night, the government is the "beast" (antichrist?), he refers to Yashua, and women must stay in a "birthing shed" during their uncleanness (their monthly cycle). Dalton refuses any help, saying it is Yashua's will.

The book's ending can be surprising. The introduction introduced us to the Center for Missing and Exploited Children. So all along you have the sense that maybe Sarah's mother is alive. You hope that Sarah gets to meet Juniper. So, in a sense, one surprise ending is spoiled because you have that sense that the something wrong is dad abducted Sarah and a very rural Idaho locale is ideal to hide outside of public view. But there are surprises in store for the reader as the reader meets Juniper and her brother, Austin.

Since the book dealt with missing and exploited children, especially children abducted by a non-custodial parent, an appendix could have been added to give statistics on this trend. Is it a high percentage of abductors who take their children to extremes of a separatist movement? Where do we find most of the custodial adbucted children? But overall the book was well-written and gives attention to a growing problem in today's society.


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