No Promises In The Wind Summary

Irene Hunt

No Promises In The Wind

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No Promises In The Wind Summary

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 No Promises in the Wind is a historical novel by Irene Hunt, first published in 1970. The novel takes place in 1932, during the Great Depression.

The main character’s name is Josh, a young boy who is particularly good at playing the piano, a skill he has been taught by his mother. Josh and his best friend, Howie, are praised by their teacher, Miss Crowne but this doesn’t mean much to Josh, who is used to being ridiculed and criticized by his father Stefan. He is sick of this treatment, and decides to leave for Chicago, to make a living for himself. Josh’s mother, Mary, supports this decision somewhat unwillingly, because she realizes that Josh and his father have irreparable conflicts with each other. Also, if Josh stayed, they wouldn’t have enough money to continue feeding him.

Josh decides to set out with Howie at his side. Howie convinces Josh to bring his little brother Joey along, and the trio sets out. They aspire to earn their living through their musical talents, with Joey singing, Howie playing his banjo, and Josh as the pianist. Their first day’s work makes them a grand total of 78 cents, and Josh understands how important it was to bring Joey along, and is happy he did so.

The next trip they decide to take is to Nebraska, by freight train. But tragedy strikes as they are hopping aboard, and Howie is hit by an oncoming train. The two brothers are distraught, but continue on. They turn down the charity of a kind man. They beg on the streets, even though Josh is quite humiliated at having to do so. Then a woman meets the two boys, and convinces them to write to their mother. Another acquaintance they make is with Lonnie Bromer, a truck driver who lost a son named David many years ago. Lonnie agrees to bring the boys to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and sets them up with a job at a carnival, run by a man named Peter Harris. Lon leaves, and the boys promise to write to him.

Josh begins to make new friends at the carnival. One of these new friends is Edward C., a man with dwarfism who introduces Josh to the rest of the carnival people. Josh develops a strange interest in a woman named Emily. She plays a clown in the carnival, and she is 30 years old. Despite the age difference between the two (Josh is only 15 years old), Josh finds Emily extremely attractive, and soon the boy follows Emily around everywhere. Josh wants to buy her earrings for Christmas, but discovers that Emily is engaged to Pete Harris, and is furious. He almost ruins their friendship, but then they make up.

The carnival burns down, but Josh and Joey have saved up $18 and have an extra $2 that Pete Harris gives them. The two boys travel with a bootlegger named Charley, who tricks Josh into handing over all of his small bills for a twenty dollar bill. When Josh passes a shoe store, he tries to buy a pair for Joey with the bill. The shoes only cost $1.50, but the clerk takes all of it, and refuses to give him change.

With their money gone, the two brothers have to go back to begging again. They meet a woman who initially refuses to help them, but then changes her mind and gives the two some soup for dinner. The next day Joey repays her by giving her half of the loaf of bread that he acquired through begging.

Josh, who has contracted pneumonia, is angry at Joey for giving away their food, and hits his little brother. Joey leaves, and takes Howie’s banjo with him. Josh is delirious, and tries to find his brother but instead falls unconscious. Those who find him also find Lonnie’s contact information in Josh’s wallet, and call him. When Josh finally awakes, it is in Lonnie’s home in Omaha, Nebraska. Joey is still missing, and Josh fills Lonnie in on what has happened.

Janey is Lonnie’s niece, and Josh becomes very fond of her. The two fall in love, and Josh feels a new sense of hope with the election of the new President, Franklin Roosevelt. Lonnie is worried about Joey, and sends postcards to the boys’ mother, as well as to Emily. Josh’s mother replies; and Josh is surprised to learn that his father is growing increasingly concerned about his sons, often suffering from sleepless nights. Joey is found after a radio announcement describes him, and the boys are reunited. They work at a restaurant, as pianist and singer, and quickly become popular, even though Joey sometimes sings out of tune.

Josh and Janey split up, leaving both broken hearted. Josh and Joey go back to Chicago, to their father. Surprisingly, Stefan comes to meet the boys at the train station, and breaks down in tears at the sight of his sons. Josh realizes that he and his father have a lot of things in common, after all.