Considering Cane Kallevik’s rocky start, her life has been normal under the watchful eye of Grandma Betty. Freckle-faced, scrawny, and almost sixteen, Cane has ants in her pants. When she’s not running five miles at a crack, she’s riding her bike around the rural farming town of Savage, Illinois and engaging in a secret warfare with her former best friend, Mikayla Atwood. The biggest thorn in her side is Jenny Ryanne Schaeffer, her employer, who Cane has nicknamed Jelly Roll for painfully obvious reasons.
When Justice Price, Jelly Roll’s gorgeous, older nephew rolls into town, Cane is convinced that their age difference is a minor inconvenience. On the first day they meet, she invites him for a nighttime rendezvous. Despite the tornado warnings that evening, she leaves her house, hoping by some miracle that Justice will show up. While she’s waiting, a tornado of epic proportions slides right by her, leveling everything in its path.
Cane’s house is destroyed, and Grandma Betty is in a coma. Out of necessity, Cane moves in with the Schaeffer family and spends the summer falling in love with Justice, keeping vigil at Grandma Betty’s side, fighting with Jelly Roll, walking a fine line between love and hate with Mikayla, and discovering scandalous secrets about Mikayla’s mother, Annette.
Cane endures a summer of waiting, loving, and longing. In a dramatic conclusion her world literally goes up in flames, but instead of losing everything, she finds exactly what she’s looking for in the most unexpected way.
On the night that I was born, the circle of life sucker punched my family in the face. Grandma Betty stepped up to the plate, and out of her iron will to make lemonade out of lemons, she named me Cane, claiming it was because I was as sweet as sugar.
There are two problems with my name. First, there’s really not a thing about me that’s sweet. Second, I’ve read the Bible. The spelling of a name doesn’t mean anything, and you can’t convince me otherwise.
Before I had even come out of the womb I had broken the sixth commandment, more than once, and was in dire need of absolution by the time they wiped the birth matter off of me. When I sit in Grace Lutheran church with Grandma Betty, I’m always on the lookout for God, but I’ve failed to find Him. Maybe it’s because of what I did that God chooses to ignore me when I’m in church. “Come out, come out wherever you are,” I say to Him, but He keeps on hiding.
Wooden pews and rote prayers don’t offer much comfort, but I’ve found a place that has. Every Sunday evening after Grandma Betty has gone to bed, I tie a rope to the limb of the oak tree outside my bedroom window, climb down, and run to the forest preserve on the other side of town. Just inside the split rail fence that borders the back of the property resides a daunting hill that overlooks railroad tracks, cornfields, and one turbulent and defiant stream that floods every spring.
A solitary maple punctuates the knoll; unattractive but brawny, it was struck by lightning on the exact night I was born, during the storm that ruthlessly destroyed lives. An inspiring portrait of life and death, only half of the tree lives. It defies death every time it sprouts a leaf, grows a limb, and slowly but steadily inches its way upward, taking its dead half along for the ride.