Jordy, 17, gay, abused by his parents, has taken refuge in a New York basement from where, one night, he witnesses the brutal gang rape of a young 18-year-old. After his shouted threats scare off the attackers, the girl slips through the window into what turn out to be shared quarters. The two begin to take care of each other; she insists on his getting treatment for head wounds at a public clinic (where care is distiinctly substandard) and he becomes guardian to this young woman whose history of abuse has left her in a curious state of social alienation and innocence about what is normal. The story becomes a kind of vision quest when, faced with "Chloe's" (a name she gives herself by way of starting over) inclination to put herself in harm's way, and to flirt with suicide, Jordy decides to prove to her that the world is more beautiful than it is threatening and ugly.

They acquire an old truck and embark on a cross-country journey that becomes a picaresque series of encounters, most of them with helpful, kind people, one notably disastrous, with three young men who threaten Chloe and land Jordy in the hospital after a fight. The trip terminates in Big Sur on the California coast where Chloe's dream of riding horses on the beach is fulfilled with most of Jordy's remaining cash. The pilgrimage leaves them with a sense of hope which each of them communicates to the New York therapist who briefly helped them, in letters that end the book.


Although some events and plot twists in this lively story can seem contrived, and others insufficiently developed, the book is moving and hopeful in much the same way as the author's better-known story, now a major motion picture, Pay it Forward. It offers a clear message about the possibility of survival--living beyond abuse, injustice, family disintegration, and poverty by finding kindness and community in unexpected places. The actuality of evil and suffering is fully acknowledged, but also, and insistently, the actuality of human solidarity, open-heartedness, and the will to community. A lively read and memorable characters.


Alfred A. Knopf

Place Published

New York



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