Turning Wine Into Water
H. Arthur MacMahan’s Turning Wine Into Water: The Misadventures of Two Boys in 1930’s New England is a fun walk down memory lane, even for those of us who weren’t yet alive in the 1930’s and who haven’t ever lived in New England. The tale is of a long summer and the mischief that young boys have found for countless generations, and each chapter reads like its own short story.
Cumulatively, this tale is full of hijinks and fun; a pair of ten-year-old cousins are as close as brothers and manage to find more (mostly) harmless trouble for themselves in one summer during the Great Depression than an entire pack of boys could find now. Armed with little more than their imaginations, an old fort, an abandoned train, and a deserted ship, the boys entertain themselves endlessly for free.
The book calls to mind days gone by when children were left to roam during the summer and parents called them for supper, and these boys manage to get themselves into the types of trouble young boys have been getting themselves into for centuries.
The physical danger and potential for disaster they often face is real, but the author has skillfully given us a boy’s point of view: more often the imagined danger the boys have cooked up together feels more real. As young boys are wont to do, they somehow manage to escape each of their adventures with no real harm done.
This story will bring back childhood memories of long, freedom-filled summers for those of us who had the chance to experience them–when calling “dibs” was the final say and meant you were in charge of whatever game you’d finally managed to agree on. Younger audiences may not have those specific memories, but the written dialect and skillful way the author paints us a picture–of abject poverty but told from the viewpoint of children who knew nothing else–will resonate.
A good glimpse into Depression-Era America, told through the eyes of children.
H. Arthur MacMahan