Although this seems to be a hunting story on the surface, it’s much more. It’s about a young man and the love he has for the grandfather who has raised him and taught him all the important things in life. When young John finds out that his grandfather’s cancer has reached the final stages, he is devastated and consumed with grief. When it’s time for their annual hunting trip, John has no desire to go alone, but his grandfather convinces him to go in search of meat for the family.
So John reluctantly sets out to find a deer. He sees one and is convinced it is the same animal he saw the day before, the deer that gazed into his eyes without fear. John cannot bring himself to shoot the deer, but an irrational thought comes to him that if he can physically touch the deer without killing it, his grandfather will be miraculously cured. The author based the story loosely on events in his own life. This is one of Gary Paulsen’s most moving novels.