NEVER THAT FAR, by Carol Lynch Williams, Shadow Mountain, April 3, 2018, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 8-12)
As I write this, my mom is getting settled in at her house after a five-day hospital stay. Between the 30-minute drive (each way) and the hours of waiting for test results, doctors and who knows what else, I’ve had a lot of time to think.
It’s a strange coincidence, or perhaps kismet that my review of Carol Lynch Williams’ Never That Far was scheduled to run this week. You pair the book and my own life experience together and an interesting thought process emerges.
Never That Far tells the story of a young girl who is dealing with the unexpected death of her grandfather.
When Grampa dies, Libby thinks that’s the end. Her father is wrapped up in his own grief and she’s all alone. Except she’s not. She awakens the night after the funeral to Grampa sitting on the edge of her bed. Grampa glows. He looks happy. He makes Libby happy.
Grampa isn’t there just to visit, though he loves spending time with Libby. He has three important things to tell her — 1) she is never alone 2) she has the ability or “Sight” to see family members who have died 3) he hid something special in the lake on their property and she must find it.
With the help of a neighbor friend who has an open mind, Libby sets out to find her Grampa’s “treasure” and to help her father heal from a lifetime of grief.
In my own life, my mother is getting better, though her long-term health prognosis is still unknown. Her hospital stay was on the same floor on which my brother lived for almost a month before moving to the ICU and eventually passing away. It’s been a week of memories and contemplating mortality.
Never That Far helped bring those thoughts to the fore. As I sat and thought about Libby’s ability, I began to wonder what I would ask my brother. What if he were sitting at the edge of my mom’s hospital bed? What words of comfort or quick-witted comments would escape from his lips. What tasks would he have us accomplish?
I can see how Never That Far would be an especially moving book for anyone who is grieving. It’s a short, simple novel that never strays far from Libby’s home, and yet it packs such an emotional punch. It builds on your feelings and makes you look beyond yourself.
Never That Far is set in rural Florida, and the colloquial speech does take some getting used to. However, it doesn’t take long before author Carol Lynch Williams’ warm prose envelopes you. Never That Far is a lovely read.
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