The Skipworth Summer

By Jan Netolicky

Can a 75 year-old barber saves troubled teenager Ross Benedict from destroying his life? This novel, inspired by real characters, explores the delicate balance between excruciating loss and a deep bond – however briefly shared.

Ross Benedict is a 9th grade teacher who breaks his vow never to return to a small Arkansas town and the memories that live there. He wants no reminders of the hurt and loss he experienced when he was a troubled, scared teenager. But the inescapable pull of that long-ago time draws him back to the home of his unlikely mentor, 75 year-old Luther Skipworth, and Ross recalls a tumultuous, ultimately heartbreaking summer.

Skipworth takes responsibility for Ross, a ward of the county, when the teen commits an act of vandalism. He forges a bond with his young charge, perhaps because he recognizes something of himself in Ross’s defiant anger. By working with Mr. Skipworth at his barber shop and on his farm, Ross builds a grudging respect for the old man, himself a renegade of sorts.

Reconciling their differences is not the biggest challenge facing the pair, however. When he wants to gain legal guardianship of Ross, Skipworth must counter opposition from his only daughter and from an inflexible social worker. Ross believes himself victimized by rigid bureaucracy; even worse, he feels betrayed by a family he so fervently wants to claim as his own.