Lifestone
Gary Kaschak
Review: The Hole To China

 
 
The Hole To China
by Mark Orrin, Author, Editor/Mentor

In today's world, some of us regular folks may be too easily tempted to believe that "good guys" just can't win any more.

But through his novels, veteran sports coach, newsman and entrepreneur Gary Kaschak not only tells us good guys still can win, he shows us how they can win- when even the most unlikely among us muster enough gumption to stand, speak for and do what's right.

In his previous novel, Hands That Break...Hands That Heal... Kaschak let his vibrant, budding-saint heroine, Becky Chapman, prove that even with an accidentally shattered hand she could be her grade school volleyball team's most valuable player- and a catalyst whose influence helped save her town from ruthless business interests. In his The Hole To China, Kaschak inspires us to believe that a shy, pudgy, unpopular, small-town pre-teen boy can "dig" his way to a triumph of courage and determination that ends up reaching around the world.

Which of us kids didn't have the desire to dig a hole "all the way to China?" (When about age 12 I thought about doing so, it occured to me that if I went down into my hole feet-first and didn't turn around, I'd emerge in China feet-first- and upside down!)

But how many of us ever actually continued digging deeper and deeper? Gary Kaschak's youngster hero, Marty Kent, not only starts digging it, he doesn't quit digging- not even long after he realizes that his quest to reach China is impossible.

The time is the mid-1960s. The brunt of schoolmates' and bullies' scorn, rejected by his former star-athlete father, living in a neighborhood threatened by developers, Marty Kent decides to dig a hole to China for want of something better to do- and he sticks to it. He's joined at first only by a protective girl classmate; but soon curiosity draws other kids into Marty's quest- and prompts a neighborhood bully and his gang to try to stop them.

Then Kelly Trapp, an ambitious young newspaper reporter, sees the hole Marty's digging and senses a story in it. She inspires the paper's publisher to promote Marty's quest, and he does so, after getting rid of a corrupt editor who stands in their way. Together, they enlist the support of the town's cagey lady mayor. Later, a mysterious, canny Native American lawyer with a mystical streak assists the cause and maneuvers to keep Marty's neighborhood from demolition. And all the while, Marty and his friends (including some former tormentors he wins over and a few adults, too) keep on digging...

That's just the start of Marty Kent's Hole To China's impact on his town, his country and the world. I won't tell you all the obstacles Marty and his friends face and surmount. I won't tell you who comes to share Marty's vision and the powerful waves of goodwill it comes to generate. I won't tell you this book's extraordinary, stirring climax (though you'll cheer when you reach it). Telling you those things would spoil a great story, and I'm not about to do that.

I will tell you that lest you think Gary Kaschak's story is just a "kids' book" or "juvenile fiction," Kaschak knows all the ins and outs of small town life, the good guys and bad guys, big-time and small-time politicians, and bullies and heroes of all sizes and ages. He's no "cockeyed optimist"; he writes the rare kind of book that makes you believe in the best and worst humankind can be and do- and also believe the good guys still can win, despite a fierce battle between that best and worst.

I'll tell you that when you're done reading Gary Kaschak's The Hole To China, you may wish some Marty Kent had indeed tried to dig a hole through the world in those crucial mid-1960s days- because you may well come to think the world would have been a far better place today if someone had tried that far-fetched dig back then.

And I'll tell you that after reading this book you just might be moved to look for the Marty Kent still dreaming inside yourself- and believe that the world ahead of you might yet become a better place if you "dig for" him.