Sunday, July 11, 2010

Book Review: You Shouldn't Have to Say Goodbye by Patricia Hermes

This was a favorite book of my childhood. I couldn't remember the title for years, and I finally ran across it in a Sourcebooks catalog as they rereleased it a couple of years ago. Like a lot of old favorites I worried it wouldn't hold up. I worried it would be really dated, lightweight, and maudlin. Luckily, this is another book that held up. (Boy, the cover artwork has changed!)

Sarah's a pretty ordinary girl. She's 13, does gymnastics, hangs out with her best friend Robyn, and goes to school. Her Mom is really cool. In fact, when she was a kid, all the children on the block voted and her mom was the favorite. One day she gives her Mom a hug, and her Mom winces in pain. Sarah doesn't think much of it at the time, but the next day her Mom goes to the hospital for some tests, and stays for quite a while. Well, you may have guessed it, but this book (spoiler alert) is another one of those books where the mother dies.

Meanwhile, all along Robin has had some issues. She never wants to be at home, and she's a bit of a risk taker. Once Sarah's mother gets sick, Robin feels like she can confide in Sarah that her own mother is sick too. She has agoraphobia and severe depression.
It is near the holidays, and Sarah's mother's illness is progressing rapidly. Sarah's trying to be strong for both her parents, but she's also still a kid.
For me one of the most significant moments in the book was when, after her gymnastics routine, her Mom questioned Sarah. She'd noticed a moment of hesitation. Turns out Sarah had been contemplating doing something dangerous. Sarah tries to avoid the conversation but her mother won't let it go. She finally admits it, and her mother talks to her about how sometimes when we have troubles, we do wild things. "It's as though we were tempting the Fates. It's a form of running away, thinking it's easier to face the dangers outside than the ones we feel threatened by inside." When Sarah realizes why she was considering doing that, you can tell it's not necessary for her to do it anymore. She also realizes that's why Robin is sometimes wild. This last bit of advice from her mother probably is the most significant moment in the book. You can just tell it's advice that will change the future of Sarah's life.
I just bawled at the end. I thought I wouldn't. After all, I knew what was coming, I'd read it before, I am an adult now, but this story is drawn with such delicacy and care that you are drawn in without noticing. Sarah's Mom is a fully drawn and unique character - not just a trope or a cliche. Sarah's a nice, ordinary girl. She's not perfect but she tries to be a good kid. The book is touching, tender, hopeful, and honest. I'm going to save this one, for my nieces when they're old enough. It's a beautiful story.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.


Julie P. said...

I have a few books from my childhood that make me cry each and every time I read them. I am so glad you re-discovered this novel!

Laura @ I'm Booking It said...

I hadn't run into this before, but I would have loved it when I was a kid. I think my daughter and I will both enjoy it now, I'm going to track it down. Thanks for sharing!

bermudaonion said...

I just love it when an old favorite stands up to a re-read like that!

makeuprockermommy said...

This was my favorite book as a kid. I read it so many times, I started marking in the inside cover every time I read it. I bawled crying every time too. I plan to get it so my daughter can read it when grows up.