Distiller: Doni Faber
Rating: 3/5 Stars
Drink: Honey Vinegar Tea
Drink: Honey Vinegar Tea
Counting by 7s
by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Dial; First Edition edition (August 29, 2013)
Willow Chance is busy living her life, tending to her garden and going to school. Her biggest concern is that she feels she must deceive her parents about getting counseling after being accused of cheating when she earned perfect scores on an achievement test.
But none of this matters when tragedy strikes. She loses both her parents in a car accident. This is the second time she has lost her parents since she was adopted. A friend Willow hardly knows takes her home and thus begins the start of a scraped-together family.
Willow's world collapses into tunnel-vision until slowly, she finds ways to contribute to those who are helping her. She does Mai's brother's homework, rebuilds a computer for her counsellor, Dell Duke, re-designs the floor plan of Mai's mom's beauty salon, and designs a plan for re-landscaping the apartment complex where the patched-together family moonlights. She even advises the cabbie who drives her across town to her counselling appointments.
This is one of the most endearing qualities of Willow: that she uses her intellectual gifts to help others. It is the reason that this story about surviving loss moves beyond individual grief and becomes more about creating a place to belong. And why someone who was significant by means of relationship (parent-daughter) becomes significant in the lives of those who were practically strangers before she needed them.
Through most of the book, the situation is supposed to be temporary and it reminds me of the sorts of communities that are built when an airplane gets trapped on the tarmac or families gather at a park. But even though Mai's family and the counsellor are thrown together in order to keep up appearances for child services, I found myself rooting for their relationship to endure.
One of the lines that best captures the feel of the book is, "All reality, I decide is a blender where hopes and dreams are mixed with fear and despair." Willow is in a bittersweet situation where she has lost the known sweetness of her life, but she transforms her arid surroundings into a lush garden of possibilities.
The drink for this book is one that Willow made herself: hot water with a tablespoon of honey and a tablespoon of vinegar, mixing the sweet and the tart together.