Journey is eleven the summer his mother leaves him and his sister, Cat, with their grandparents. He is sad and angry, and spends the summer looking for the clues that will explain why she left.
Journey searches photographs for answers. He hunts family resemblances in Grandma's albums. Looking for happier times, he tries to put together the torn pieces of the pictures his mother shredded before her departure. And he also searches the photographs his grandfather takes as the older man attempts to provide Journey with a past. In the process, the boy learns to look and finds that, for him, the camera is a means of finding things his naked eye has missed--things like inevitability of his mother's departure and the love that still binds his family.
Like Sarah, Plain and Tall , for which MacLachlan won the 1986 Newbery Award, this novel concerns a family trying to fill the gaping void left by the loss of a mother. And like that earlier masterpiece, this is a spellbinding tale, lean only in its length. The author's clipped dialogue and meticulously pared-down descriptions convey a deceptive simplicity--there are deep, intricate rumblings beneath the surface calm of MacLachlan's words. When his mother walks out on 11-year-old Journey and his older sister, Cat, the boy refuses to believe she will not return. He listens to the constant clicking of the shutter as his grandfather takes possession of Cat's cast-aside camera, asserting that "sometimes pictures show us what is really there." Journey questions the value of this incessant picture-taking, yet pores through his grandmother's photo album, trying to patch together a fragmented past that is frustratingly out of focus. He hopes that the truth will be found in a box of family photos that his mother left in tiny scraps under her bed. Setting out to piece the pictures back together, Journey finally admits that this dream is as hopeless as his mother's return. It is his grandfather, on whom Journey has taken out much of his anger, who eventually answers the child's most troubling questions. The wise older man assures Journey that he is not to blame for his mama's departure, and shares a truth that is at the heart of the novel: although everything in life--from photographs to families--is not perfect, "things can be good enough." Readers of all ages will find that MacLachlan's emotion-charged novel is far closer to being perfect than to being just "good enough." One turns the last page convinced that Journey's is, indeed, a complete family, and that this is a full and refreshing work. Ages 8-14.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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July 30, 1993
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