Sunday, December 18, 2011
Pearl, written by Jo Knowles. Henry Holt, 2011. $18.99 ages 12 and up
I just spent almost three hours living with Bean (well, Pearl) and Henry, and a strong cast of family members. It is the second book by Jo Knowles that I have read this week and I will be looking for the next as soon as I am finished this post. She is a wondrous writer.
Her characters are vulnerable and aching to be loved....and love them I do! Yes, they are exasperating at times...each one of them. Isn't that real life in a nutshell? They grew on me with every turn of the page, and as I came to know their story, I just liked them more. They have a long way to go but I feel hopeful that each one is moving in the right direction to find some peace and joy for the rest of the journey...not without bumps.
Bean and Henry are best friends:
"Being close to Henry has always made me feel safe. Ever since I met him at the MiniMart on the corner of our street. I was there to buy my mom some ginger ale for her hangover and get myself a treat with the change. Henry was buying his mom Soap Opera Digest and some Suzy Qs. We were seven and it was July."
Bean lives with her grandfather Gus and her mother Lexie. It is not a happy household. Gus and Lexie fight all the time, but Gus loves Bean. They share happy times together, always in the shadow of the continuing feud between father and daughter.
Henry lives with his mother Sally who never leaves the house, filling her days with soap operas and sadness.
Neither has a father, or knows much about him:
"Up until then, Henry and I had been pretty satisfied with the stories we'd concocted about our dads. Mine was a pilot who disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle. Henry's had been kidnapped by terrorists. These scenarios were a lot more interesting that the unsatisfactory ones our moms fed us up to that point:"
When Gus dies suddenly, Pearl's heart aches; her mother, his daughter, seems to have found a new freedom that Pearl cannot understand. There is so much she doesn't know, and a lot she doesn't want to believe. She always turns to Henry with her worry and her growing knowledge of the events that have led to where she is now. Henry is always there for her.
Teen pregnancy, desertion, anger, doubt, homosexuality, love, longing and a promise of better times ahead....sounds like too much. Instead, in Jo Knowles' capable and comforting hands, these characters
will find a way into your heart, and a place in your memory. Deservedly so!