Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

See You at Harry's

See You at Harry's

Jo Knowles
Fiction
For ages 12 and up
Candlewick, 2012   ISBN: 978-0763654078

When Fern was nine-years-old she caught a bug from a classmate and had to stay home because she was extremely sick. That day Fern had her mother all to herself, which was something that had never happened before. Her mother comforted and cossetted Fern in the most delightful way, and even though Fern had a fever of one hundred and three and was throwing up, she was wonderfully happy. Two days later Fern’s mother started to throw up, and a short while later Fern’s parents announced that a baby was on the way.

Now Fern is twelve and her little brother Charlie is three. Charlie is the darling of the family and when she isn’t behind a closed door “meditating” the children’s mother focuses all her attention on the little boy. Fern’s big sister Sara is taking a gap year, and she is busy being bored and feeling lonely. Holden, Fern’s fourteen-year-old brother is trying to come to terms with the fact that he is gay. He is persecuted by some boys on the school bus, and when Fern tries to stand up for him, the bullies set about persecuting her.

Trying to deal with Holden and his problems, Sara and her issues, and watching Charlie is more than enough for Fern, but then her father makes things worse by insisting that all the members of the family appear in a video that he is having made to promote Harry’s, the family restaurant. Soon everyone in town has seen the commercial on T.V. and they all recognize the little boy, Charlie, who says “See you at Hawee’s!” on the video. Fern wonders how on earth she is going to live down this new humiliation.

Most afternoons after school Fern goes to Harry’s to do her homework. One day she is outside, sitting at the picnic table, trying to work, and Charlie is under the table, being a pest as usual. Then, before Fern can stop him, Charlie runs out into the parking lot and into a car that is backing up. When Fern gets to Charlie he is lying on his back, but other than being a little shaken, he seems to be fine. Of course Fern gets reprimanded for not keeping a closer eye on her brother, which upsets her to no end. Why wasn’t anyone else willing to keep an eye on Charlie? Why was she, Fern, the kid who everyone else ignored, always stuck with taking care of Charlie?

The next morning Charlie is not the first person up, and when Fern goes in to check on her little brother she finds out that he has died in his sleep. Apparently a blood clot caused by the accident of the day before ended up killing him. Charlie’s family falls apart, ever member blaming themselves for what happened. If only she had watched him better, Fern thinks. Surely, everyone must hate her and blame her for what happened.

Losing a child is every parent’s nightmare. What so few people consider is that when a child dies, the siblings in the family also suffer. They too have to live with the guilt, with the pain, and with the loss. This remarkable, often heartbreaking story, explores how all the members in a family struggle to understand their loss. They are pulled apart by a tragedy and have to learn how to come together again as a family to support one another. Fern’s ‘voice’ is beautifully true and honest, and experiencing this time in Fern’s life through her eyes will leave readers with memories that they will remember for years to come.

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