The book deals with many issues such as racism, depression and grief, and child abuse. Henry is trying to be a good boy though his family has been torn apart by the hit-and-run death of his brother. His father has lapsed into an almost catatonic depression and his mother is away all the time, working double shifts struggling to pay the bills. Henry tries to pull his weight with a job stocking groceries: and there the antagonist is introduced. It´s his evil boss, Mr. Hairston.
Mr. Hairston says nasty things about his customers behind their backs and abuses his young daughter. (Henry´s naive eyes do not percieve the abuse, but to the reader it is all too clear.) But the real issue at hand is his racism towards Mr. Levine, a Jewish Holocaust survivor and Henry´s friend. When Mr. Hairston learns of Henry´s desire to get a gravestone for his brother (his family cannot afford them) he offers a deal: ´´I´ll buy you a stone, but you have to do something for me.´´ The ´´something´´ Henry has to do is smash Mr. Levine´s beloved toy village that he´s been painstakingly carving for months.
This conflict, while ingeneous, is introduced late in the story and resolved rather hastily, in only two or three pages. The story could have been much more powerful than it was; it seemed rather diluted, like strong wine watered down. Cormier fans will appreciate it for Henry´s young, innocent narration and Mr. Hairston´s surpreme evilness, but those not familiar with the author´s work will probably find this book to be nothing better than toilet reading.