79 pages 2 hours read

Eric Gansworth

If I Ever Get Out of Here

Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2013

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more. For select classroom titles, we also provide Teaching Guides with discussion and quiz questions to prompt student engagement.

Summary and Study Guide


If I Ever Get Out of Here (2013), by Eric Gansworth—a member of Onondaga Nation and Haudenosaunee—is a young adult, contemporary fiction novel about a teenage boy, Lewis “Shoe” Blake. Lewis narrates his struggles fitting into life in junior high and navigating the cultural differences between his life on the reservation, which he refers to as “the rez,” and that of his white classmates.

Plot Summary

The year is 1975 in northern New York State, and Lewis is dreading going back to school: He doesn’t have any friends and only a feeble hope of finding any this coming year. There are many problems involved with trying to find friends, not least of all the fact that he is a Native American living on a reservation. The Native Americans tend to keep to themselves, but his friend, Carson Mastick, isn’t much of a friend, and they don’t hang out together at school. Soon after the new year begins, Lewis notices a new student, George Haddonfield. George, whose father grew up around Native Americans, befriends Lewis.

George and Lewis’ friendship grows, and Lewis learns how different life is outside of the reservation. Even though George is from a military family living in military housing on the base, the differences between the two boys are stark. For one, George and his family do not live in abject poverty like Lewis. Poverty is a great source of shame for Lewis, his mother Vera, and his uncle Albert—who serves as a father figure to Lewis; Lewis’ father ran away many years ago. Lewis invents many lies to keep George from coming over to his place to visit, though Lewis spends time with George and his family. George’s father, Mr. James Haddonfield, is an Air Force officer who takes a liking to Lewis, and even purchases a ticket for Lewis to come with him and George to see Paul McCartney and Wings play in Toronto. Lewis is a dedicated Beatles fan.

Lewis does his best to navigate the racial prejudice at school, his life as a Native American, and his friendship with George, who represents the Other World of the “white man.” These two worlds collide during a serious winter storm that closes all roads; Mr. Haddonfield and George are forced to spend several days with Lewis and his family in their dilapidated and crumbling abode. The squalor is nothing new for Mr. Haddonfield. He comforts Lewis’ shame-stricken mother with stories about his childhood on a reservation and how their home reminds him of the homes of his Native American friends. The two worlds appear to align.

Unfortunately for George and Lewis’ friendship, the Air Force is transferring Mr. Haddonfield to Texas. On the last evening before the Haddonfields depart, Vera hosts a dinner at their home on the reservation. George and Lewis struggle to say goodbye to each other; they hug instead, something neither of them has ever done with a friend. Time passes, and Lewis hopes to receive a letter from George. One day, Lewis receives a package: a record of a Beatles concert. The package has no return address. Lewis lies on his bed and listens to the entire album. When it is over, he picks up his guitar, and though George is no longer there to sing along with him, Lewis plays “The Two of Us,” using the more complicated chord progression that Mr. Haddonfield had taught him.