Blurb from Goodreads
An unforgettable novel about the power of friendship and kindness by the New York Times bestselling author of Pay It Forward.
In the summer of 1969, fourteen-year-old Lucas Painter carries a huge weight on his shoulders. His brother is fighting in Vietnam. His embattled parents are locked in a never-ending war. And his best friend, Connor, is struggling with his own family issues. To find relief from the chaos, Lucas takes long, meandering walks, and one day he veers into the woods.
There he discovers an isolated cabin and two huge dogs. Frightened, he runs. And the dogs run with him. Lucas finds unusual peace in running with the dogs, and eventually he meets their owner, Zoe Dinsmore. Closed off and haunted by a tragic past, Zoe has given up. She doesn’t want to be saved. She wants out. But Lucas doesn’t want her to go, and he sees an opportunity to bring more than one friend back into the light. It’s either the best or worst idea he’s ever had, but Lucas isn’t giving up on Zoe or Connor.
Their unexpected connection might be the saving grace that Zoe thought she’d lost, that Connor needs, and that Lucas has been running toward.
This was such a touching read. I was utterly transfixed by this novel as I read it over the course of a single day.
It was gentle.
It was sweet.
It was heartbreaking.
And it was life affirming.
The majority of the novel takes place in the summer of 1969 and focuses on 14 year old Lucas Painter. Lucas is the sweetest character ever. I have never felt so maternal about a character when reading a book as I have about Lucas. He’s just on life’s precipice about to become a man, but still a boy…
And it’s this mix of childish innocence with a growing maturity that makes him a beautiful character to read about.
Lucas is the type of person that takes on other people’s worries. His heart isn’t big enough for how much he cares. His parents are constantly arguing at home, his older brother Roy is fighting in Vietnam and his best friend Connor is struggling with depression. And Lucas wants to help them all but doesn’t know how. That is until one day he goes running in the woods and comes across two big dogs and they all start running for joy together. And then Lucas meets their owner, the mysterious Zoe Dinsmore who lives alone in the woods with just these two dogs for company. And thusly follows a life altering summer that moulds the lives of all these characters in ways that they couldn’t have imagined.
The story touches on issues of coping with grief, addiction and depression through the eyes of fourteen year old Lucas along with exploring the impact of wartime on both those who are drafted and those left behind. And Catherine Ryan Hyde explores these issues with great aplomb by never once treating them in any casual manner, instead giving them the gravitas they require.
This is a very lovely book that would make a great book club read as there are so many talking points and discussion worthy issues.
My rating is hovering between 3.5 and 4 stars with my only drawback being the very short Part Two that occurs at the end of the novel (90% stage) . While many readers will no doubt enjoy the fifty year flash forward to see how the characters’ lives have ended up, to me this detracted from some of the magic of that long summer of 1969. But this is a very personal opinion as I am a lover of open ended stories. However, if you like your books to finish up with no lose ends then this is certainly the book for you.
*An e-copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher, Lake Union Publishing, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*