Review: “Shiloh” by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

For the love of books

Phyllis Reynolds Naylor decries the after-effects of animal abuse and physical abuse in Shiloh.  This first novel in the Shiloh series portrays the Prestons, a strong family of five struggling to survive in a country town in West Virginia.

 Marty Preston, the oldest child, knows the meaning of responsibility, but his life changes when he finds a lost beagle.  He names it Shiloh, and he begins to understand unconditional love.  Unfortunately, Marty has two definite problems.  First of all, his parents refuse to allow him or his sisters to have any pets for financial reasons.  Second of all, Shiloh belongs to Judd Travers.  A victim of physical abuse himself, Judd is known for being mean and hard to deal with.  Moreover, Marty figures out that Judd physically abuses his own dogs, especially “disobedient” Shiloh.  Marty’s love for Shiloh overcomes his fear of Judd’s anger when Shiloh runs away again from Judd.  He vows that he will sacrifice anything, even his family’s trust, to keep Shiloh safe and make this dog his own.  But how long can Marty keep Shiloh a secret?

An eleven year-old boy like Marty is an unusual, refreshing protagonist, and his first-person narrative is accentuated by the dialect native to West Virginia.  The author contrasts the Prestons’ familial love against Judd’s cruelty, and the storyline focuses on the hardships that Marty must face as a result of injustice.  Determining what is right or wrong and judging someone’s character without bias are shown to be difficult tasks in Shiloh.  Morals and ethics have a price, and self-sacrifice is only one of the many burdens that accompany the path of the just man.  Courage, wisdom, and perseverance are some of the traits in Shiloh that make it an unforgettable, thought-provoking work of fiction.

Original review: Part 1: The ‘Shiloh’ trilogy, Examiner.com

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