Twelve-year-old Lily Star has lost her father and moved from a cabin in the woods on the river where she grew up fishing with her father, and where she knew the natural creatures as neighbors, to an apartment in the nearby city where she and her mother continue to run the family hardware store. While she still loves the river, she finds it hard to "forgive" it because it drowned her father in a boating accident. She also resents the fact that an important stretch of land along the river is being fenced off by the man to whom the cabin was sold--T.R.--a recluse in a wheelchair. Through a series of unpleasant encounters, Lily gets to know him and learns that he had been a pilot and was disabled in an accident.

The bond the two discover over time has to do with somewhat parallel paths of healing: he needs to "forgive" the sky as she does the river. She persuades him eventually to go boating with her. Even a fall in the water doesn't discourage him from taking on new life and hope by accepting Lily's invitations to get to know the river, the land, and the neighbors. Lily's hopes that he might remain and marry her mother are disappointed when he decides to return to work with planes, though he can no longer pilot them, but the friendship that strengthened them both in their struggles with grief and loss makes it a parting full of promise.


This engaging story represents multiple dimensions of grief--anger, resentment, sadness, isolation, ritual, fear, and, need and desire that finally open paths to healing. The cautious friendship between a young girl and an aging, disabled man, the edgy companionship between Lily and her mother, and Lily's own inventive strategies for reclaiming life are made lively and convincing by a first-person narrative that invites empathy with a twelve-year-old's perspective while also offering a long look at the complexities of loss. Valuable for young people in that process of recovery, and perhaps also for adults seeking to help them find their way through grief.


Eerdmans Books

Place Published

Grand Rapids, Mich.



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