This was admittedly a slow read for me. But it's proof that some things are worth sticking in for and waiting on. At its heart, this is a moving story about a young boy who is coming to terms with his identity as an adoptee. He's asking the questions about his birth family, but that in no way invalidates his feelings or attachment to his adoptive family. On the surface, this is a mystery/adventure about a treasure hunt in a house that once belonged to a famous smuggler. Milo wanted a quiet Christmas with his family, but unexpected guests arrive and change the whole dynamic. But it turns out this is a pivotal event that will put to rest old secrets and reveal the answers to all the questions of the guests that come to stay in Greenglass House one snowy Christmas week.
While this moved slowly, and I found myself rereading several parts to make sure I understood what was happening, there is a strength to the narrative that made me want to soldier through. I found Milo adorable. He's Chinese by birth and ethnicity, and he's sick of that question of why he doesn't look like his white parents. He's a quiet and bookish kid with a big inner life, and he's ripe for an adventure. Milo meets a young girl who comes along with their cook, and they become partners in a Dungeons and Dragons-like game called "Odd Trails", which ties in very heavily with their quest for secrets about Greenglass House.
That mystery is extremely clever. Especially how the very house itself is full of clues about the mystery. I would enjoy staying at Greenglass House, and exploring its several floors that have stood the test of time, and gazing at the raging winter (I love winter) outside the beautiful stained glass windows. Any good mystery writer presents a group of suspects, and each one is interesting, with deep motives yet to be discovered.
The end was quite a lovely surprise. I hadn't suspected what we find out near the end, but it definitely makes sense, and there are seeds all along. That's the hallmark of a good mystery to my mind.
The author writes an afterword about her reasons for writing this novel, and that adds so much to the story. How this came out of her personal journey to adoption, along with other aspects of the genesis of writing this novel, in which an adoptee plays a major role.
I'm glad my library had this book, and for the recommendation from my friend Rane. While it took me a good while to read, it was definitely worth the reading. I'll look forward to reading other books by Ms. Milford.