Nazi Germany wasn’t the only country to practice genetic purification, trying to wipe out an entire race of people.
Every family has secrets, but Sonny’s family has more than most. Some of those secrets Sonny doesn’t even know about until the autumn he starts sixth grade. But other secrets Sonny’s grown up with. Secrets about his father’s anger and his mother’s bruises or the mark of his father’s hand on his own face.
Deep down, he knows his father loves them, but sometimes the anger inside just gets too big to keep under control. His mother has secrets too, and when Sonny asks her why she isn’t like the mothers of the other kids at school, who talk and laugh more and bake cookies or help with book drives, she tells him that they haven’t had to live through what she’s had to. But she doesn’t explain what happened to her, and she teaches Sonny to sleep lightly and to be aware of everything going on around him, so no one can creep up on him.
And then there are the secrets about Uncle Louis, secrets about why Sonny’s dad doesn’t like him, or want him around. He says Uncle Louis would fill Sonny’s head with foolish notions and tell him things he’s too young to know about or understand. But Sonny’s dad works long hours at the paper mill, and that gives Sonny and his mother time to sneak away to be with Uncle Louis, like the morning they went to see the deer and came back to find Sonny’s dad sitting on the front porch, his anger easy to see. He stood up. “Martha, I told you not to go anywhere with him. I told you,” he said raising his hand. Uncle Louis moved like lightening, grabbing that hand, so Sonny and his mother were safe. “Jake,” he said quietly, “we are who we are, you, Martha, Sonny, me. Nothing’s going to change that. Nothing.”
But that morning did change one thing — slowly, one at a time, the secrets began to come out, and terrible, unbelievable parts of the past that had been carefully hidden for years and years began to be revealed.