Well, this book was fantastic.
It stars Harriet, an amazing little eleven year old who is tough as nails on the outside but sensitive and artsy on the inside. Also starring her brother Irwin, who suffers from hydrocephalus and is unable to do most anything that Harriet can. Irwin loves and idolizes his big sister, but Harriet’s life changed dramatically when Irwin was born so she has a very intense love-hate relationship with him.
Their parents, who are woefully unable to cope with the precocious, gloomy Harriet and sick Irwin, have divorced, and each have new partners who are similarly flawed. All the parents and pseudo-parents in this book are terribly inept at filling the roles their chldren need from them. Irwin is showered with love and attention by his mother and her boyfriend, while Harriet is ignored and left to her own devices. On the other hand, their father is willing to spend time with Harriet, but is unable to cope with his sick son.
Their world of broken homes and revolving parental figures is shared with friends from similarly broken homes, and a slew of low-income seniors who populate their building and offer up better advice than the parents ever could.
How do either of them cope with the obstacles Life has thrown them? Will either of them be able to survive their own drastically different, shared yet individual worlds? Is Harriet truly the strong one and Irwin the weak?
The story takes a very unexpected, emotional turn (and yet a very likely outcome, looking back afterward) about 60% through. And then again as the book comes to an end you know what is going to happen in those last few pages – I swore it wasn’t going to get to me… and yet, there it was, the last page, the resolution, the beautiful beautiful ending… Yes, it got to me.
Thanks so much to NetGalley for providing an advanced copy for review.