See You At Harry’s

See You at Harry'sby Jo Knowles

310 pages for middle grade readers – have tissues ready

Fern feels mostly invisible. Her family is busy – each struggling with issues and questions that keep them away from her most of the time. Dad is scheming up ways to bring more business to the family restaurant.  Mom, when not  meditating, is helping with that.  Older sister, Sara, has taken a gap year between high school and college.  She working for her parents and trying to find her way in town when no one her age is around.  Holden, always Fern’s partner until now, is struggling with his sexual identity.  But Charlie, the three-year old family joy, has time for Fern – always, and sometimes that’s a bother!  If it weren’t for her best friend, Ran and his soothing mantra, all will be well, Fern is pretty sure no one would even notice if she dissolved away.

They are a family, trying to work as a team.  They spend lots of time together, enjoying, annoying, challenging and supporting one another.  It seems as though much of their life is controlled by the rhythms of Harry’s until an unthinkable tragedy happens that nearly undoes the entire family.  All is not well and never can be again.  Perhaps…maybe eventually it will be okay.

The characters in this book are part of me now forever.  They have amazing courage, strength and beauty.  Jo Knowles writing is striking.  It is honest and clear.   This part near the beginning of the book made me stop, reread and wonder:

“Holden?  Is it true, what Sara said?”

“That I’m too sensitive?  No.”

I nudge him.  Come on, you know what I’m talking about.”

“Yeah, I know.”

I wait for him to really answer, but he doesn’t.  He just sits there with his arms crossed over his knees.  If it’s true, I wonder what that must be like.  To know you’re different.  To know some people are going to hate you because of it.

I laughed out loud and then I cried and cried and cried.  Just when I thought I knew what the story would be, it changed.  It wasn’t that at all. I sat breathless and sobbing, desperate to know what would happen as I turned the page.  See You at Harry’s is a book that will live with me from now on and will keep coming to mind when I need to be reminded of the power of friendship, love and forgiveness.  What an amazingly powerful book.