From New York Times bestselling author Catherine Ryan Hyde comes a moving novel about two strangers who find that kindness is a powerful antidote to fear.
Raymond Jaffe feels like he doesn’t belong. Not with his mother’s new family. Not as a weekend guest with his father and his father’s wife. Not at school, where he’s an outcast. After his best friend moves away, Raymond has only two real connections: to the feral cat he’s tamed and to a blind ninety-two-year-old woman in his building who’s introduced herself with a curious question: Have you seen Luis Velez?
Mildred Gutermann, a German Jew who narrowly escaped the Holocaust, has been alone since her caretaker disappeared. She turns to Raymond for help, and as he tries to track Luis down, a deep and unexpected friendship blossoms between the two.
Despondent at the loss of Luis, Mildred isolates herself further from a neighborhood devolving into bigotry and fear. Determined not to let her give up, Raymond helps her see that for every terrible act the world delivers, there is a mirror image of deep kindness, and Mildred helps Raymond see that there’s hope if you have someone to hold on to.
A beautiful coming-of-age story that has some heartwarming lessons.
Raymond Jaffe is a black kid who lives with his mother, step-father and three half-sisters, all of them white. He doesn’t feel that he belongs. It also doesn’t help that his mother has no time to listen to him. He sees his father – who is black – on the weekends. Although his dad is good at listening, he’s not good at talking. His stepmother also makes Raymond feel very unwelcome. To make matters worse, Raymond’s only friend moves to a different state at the very beginning of the book. This is a character that deserves all your hugs. You will begin to care for him within the first couple of pages.
Things take a turn when he is the only person in his building who does not ignore a blind elderly woman standing outside her flat, waiting for something. Millie is helpless after Luis Velez who appointed himself her unofficial caretaker, disappeared. Millie who hasn’t ventured out of her house all by herself in a long time, is out of money and food. Raymond initially helps Millie out of kindness, but it takes no time for them to build a bond. He also takes on the mission to find Luis Velez, even if he has to go meet all the guys with this name in the city. But finding Luis proves only to be the beginning of the story.
Raymond is a character that you can’t help but love. He’s endearing, adorable and cute. He’s also lost and starved for affection. So when Millie and Raymond find each other, it’s the best thing that could happen to both of them. Their bond was just too beautiful. And I loved how Raymond finally finds someone to confide in. It was absolutely heartening to see this boy learn so much about the world in the things he does just for Millie. Then later, when Millie is the one who’s depressed and in despair, it’s Raymond who tries to show her through his actions that there’s so much to appreciate in the world.
This book deals with very important issues like racism, sexuality, depression, prejudice and prejudice. I love that we see Raymond learn about the complexities of human behavior through his experiences, and evolves as a character, without losing the goodness in him. This story and specifically Raymond will stay with me for a long time.
Publication Date: 21st May, 2019.
Source: ARC from Publisher (via Netgalley)