Luanne Armstrong is well known for her poetry and non-fiction but nearly half of her published books have been aimed at the young reader fiction market.
In I’ll Be Home Soon, Armstrong chronicles the harrowing story of Regan, a 13-year-old who lives with her mom in Vancouver’s downtown eastside. When mom doesn’t return from a promised two- or three-day absence, Regan is left to fend for herself and, eventually to unravel the mystery of her disappearance.
In the two opening paragraphs of I’ll Be Home Soon, Armstrong lures both young and adult readers into Regan’s gritty world:
“Regan checked the street behind her to make sure no one was looking at her. She ran into the alley, stopped at the fallen gate, picked her way through a backyard littered with bags of trash, twisted pieces of bicycles, rusty grocery carts and broken glass. Blackberry vines and white-flowered morning glory were slowly eating it all up.
“She climbed through a broken window into the abandoned house, picked her way past the lumps of human waste on the old wooden floor, up a broken staircase and out another window. Then she squatted on the roof the porch, in the shadows, just under the overhang of the roof to watch the street.”
Left to rely on her own resourcefulness, and skills learned in kung fu class, Regan pulls the reader along with her as she struggles to maintain her independence and figure out what has happened to her mother.
Armstrong, who has a new non-fiction book due to be released this month — The Light Through the Trees: Reflections on Farming — can tell a story that engages readers of all ages, as six earlier books aimed primarily at young readers prove. With short sentences, a basic vocabulary and fewer than 200 pages, I’ll Be Home Soon keeps readers engaged and makes Regan a convincing and very likeable teen.
Armstrong is an adjunct professor of creative writing at the University of British Columbia who continues to work primarily from her family farm on Kootenay Lake, where she grew up. She is currently working on a book about the ethics of autobiographical writing.