Starting middle school brings all the usual challenges - until the unthinkable happens, and Fern and her family must find a way to heal.
Twelve-year-old Fern feels invisible. Her dad is always busy planning how to increase traffic to the family business. Her Mom is constantly going off to meditate. Her sister Sarah, who's taking a "gap year" after high school, is too busy finding ways not to work; and her brother Holden is too focused on his new "friend" to pay attention to her. And then there's Charlie: three years old, a "surprise" baby, and the center of everyone's world.
If it wasn't for Ran, Fern's best and oldest friend, there would be nowhere to turn. Ran is always calm, always positive. His mantra "All will be well" is soothing in a way that nothing else seems to be. And when Ran says it, Fern can almost believe.
But when their lives are unexpectedly turned upside down, Fern feels more alone than ever, and responsible for the event that wrenches the family apart. All will not be well. Or at least, all will never be the same.
The very best day of my life, I threw up
four times and had a fever of 103 degrees. I was pretty
sure I was going to die, and sometimes by the look on
my moms face every time she took my temperature,
I think she was pretty sure, too. It was all because of
Random Smith, a boy in school who never had any
lunch. Id given him a bite of my sandwich and all of my
crackers, he looked so hungry. Growing up, my mom
wasnt the kind of mom who said never drink from the
same cup as someone else. That stuff didnt occur to
her. So Id given him a sip of my milk, too.
But in addition to being hungry all the time, Random was also usually sick. People never knew what he had, so they always just said he had some random thing which they all thought was hilarious but I just thought was mean.
That day at home, my mom spent every minute with me. My older sister and brother were at school, and my dad was working at my parents ...
Even though Fern and her siblings are named after fictional characters, and they, in turn, are fictional characters, it's tough to remember that they aren't real... Knowles imagines each one with such resonant details and pitch-perfect emotions that they could easily be the family who lives next door. They're funny, messy, complicated, and loving. They're dealing with emerging sexuality, bullying, sibling rivalry, and all sorts of other typical family and growing-up issues...
Because they are so believable, and because Knowles writes with careful attention to every word in this tight, clear novel, Fern and her family wiggle their way into the reader's heart from the very beginning.
(Reviewed by Tamara Smith).
Full Review (436 words).
BookBrowse's own Tamara Smith talks with Jo Knowles about her childhood experiences growing up in the restaurant business that inspired See You at Harry's.
Much of See You at Harry's centers around the family restaurant. Do you have experience with such a place?
Yes, my family owned a series of restaurants when I was a kid, starting with Kellers' Ice-Cream, which was a family-style place as well as an ice cream factory. Later they opened a second restaurant, and a tiny sandwich place called The Hole in The Wall. Later, they sold these businesses and bought a beautiful old Victorian home which they converted into a more upscale restaurant called The Hathaway House.
Harry's is such a warm, fun restaurant. I get the feeling that the...
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