Synopses & Reviews
A trip with his estranged father changes Nate forever.
Commended for the Popular Paperback Young Adults Pick, 2014 and short-listed for the Forest of Reading - White Pine Award for Fiction, 2014
Just as summer vacation is about to arrive, Nate Huffman's plans are unexpectedly shelved for the most unlikely of reasons: the reappearance of his estranged father. Not only is the old man back, he's got this goofy idea about a road trip the two of them will take.
Nate finds himself in a pickup with a man he can't stand. His father wants to reconnect, and he wants Nate to really understand him. Larry Huffman has chosen to make this happen by taking his son into his own past, which has the Vietnam War as its centrepiece.
As the two struggle their way through the jungle of the Ashau Valley, the old man relives the horror of the battle that changed him forever, and Nate undergoes changes of his own - and they experience something that goes far beyond what either of them expected.
"This snappy, affecting YA-centered novel by Canadian teacher and author Poulsen (Numbers) is a skillful rendering of an estranged father who feels compelled to reconnect with his son. Sixteen-year-old Nate Huffman is firming up his summer vacation plans when his dad, Larry, 62, phones to say he wants 'to spend some time together.' Nate feels angry and resentful since Larry ran off 11 years earlier with a much younger woman, leaving Nate and his mother behind in Alberta. Larry divulges that they're heading to Saigon, characterizing their junket as a 'buddy movie' where Nate 'might learn something.' En route, Larry reveals elements of his colorful past to Nate and the pair stop over to visit Larry's 'strange' Vietnam War buddy, Tal Ledbetter. Once in Vietnam, Nate is awed as Larry takes him on a tour of wartime Vietnam that climaxes in a harrowing side trip into the jungle. Father and son bond as Larry explains to Nate what being a soldier taught him about manhood and life. Nate also has his first date with a girl, Jen Dodsworth, an Australian tourist visiting Vietnam with her parents. Poulson handles heavy material with sophistication and as the excursion winds down, his young protagonist learns the hardest truths about love and death. Agent: Arnold Gosewich (Canada)." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
How two people with a connection long severed come to know each other again is one of the intriguing aspects of this novel, and Poulsen's approach is sure and steady. Saskatoon Star-Phoenix
Old Man is tightly written and fast-paced. It's a book about relationships and about war, and it will appeal to teenage boys because the heavy themes are conveyed through Nate's engaging and humorous voice. Canadian Materials magazine
[A] snappy, affecting YA-centered novel ... Poulsen handles heavy material with sophistication. Publishers Weekly
Nate is a totally authentic teenage character, from his shyness in showing affection for his devoted mother, to his enthusiasm for an attractive Australian tourist, to his surliness with the father who abandoned him. Her wears his heart on his sleeve, and his vulnerability is endearing. Resource Links
Nate's perspectives and sympathies are deepened by his journey, as will be the reader's. National Post
Many surprises await both Nate and the reader; Poulsen crafts a story that has lots of twists and turns but which remains completely authentic. Nate's voice, sometimes blunt, always honest, starts strong and continues through the story, keeping the reader completely engaged with his thoughts and his discoveries... Gripping, revealing, funny and sad, Old Man will be welcomed by Poulsen fans everywhere. Calgary Herald
Poulsen has created something truly unique with this one - a juvenile fiction novel that could easily be flogged as an adult read as well. I'd like to give Poulsen a big pat on the back for creating a story that truly captures the strangeness of families and the demons people carry around and the miracle of healing. The Rooster, online review
...this is a grown-up book about the horrors of war and a boy discovering the grey areas of life, told in an irresistible, realistic young voice. Quill - & - Quire
Nate takes an unexpected and unwanted trip with his estranged father, only to undergo changes in his perceptions of both himself and his dad, whose participation in the Vietnam War changed him forever.
About the Author
David A. Poulsen has been a broadcaster, teacher, football coach, and actor who spends eighty to one hundred days each year as a visiting author in schools across Canada. He is the author of more than twenty books, including Old Man, which was short-listed for the Forest of Reading White Pine award, and Numbers which won the Sakura Medal in Japan. He lives in the foothills west of Claresholm, Alberta.