Thirteen-year-old Stevie Grace and her parents live in an abandoned church in Taos, New Mexico. They call their "house" the Rockasita because of the music someone is always playing on the record player. Her mother has a garden and they make their living selling fruit and flowers at a little stand out front under the plum trees.
Well, they did make their living there until the day a drunk driver came around the short twist on the road, lost control, ran into the stand and sent Stevie's parents to heaven. Stevie was in geography class when they told her to go down to the school office. That's where she found out her parents were gone.
The little family farm is going to be sold and Stevie is on the Greyhound bus headed to her grandfather in Texas.
Mile by mile Stevie gets closer to the unknown that waits for her. When she arrives at the station, her grandfather is nowhere to be seen. Instead he has sent Arlo and Roy, father and son, who help out around the Sunrise Motel, her grandfather's place.
Grief takes time. Finding something good in life after it seems all the goodness has been erased in a giant swipe is painful and tough. At the Sunrise Motel the lives of Violet, Mercedes, Horace and Ida, Arlo and Roy and now Stevie and her grandfather, Winston, look like they've run out of good luck. The motel itself needs a lot of fixing. The memories that are locked up in Room 12 seem to leak out and cast a net of pain on everyone and everything.
Stevie needs someone to care again. She needs family in her life who will open that door to the wonder of music and laughter and a hug. Can her grandfather ever get beyond the pain of his memories enough to let Stevie into his heart?
This is a dusty story that edges forward in the direction of hope and possibilities. Not saccharine or sweet... it's thoughtful and persevering and occasionally bursts into a moment of real joy and the truth of relationships that slowly build into something deep that will last for a lifetime.
328 pages 978-1627793247 Ages 8-12
Pacing: Moderately paced
Tone: Sad; hopeful
Characters: The real stars in this story; interesting; you'd want to meet them and spend time with them
Recommended by: Barb Langridge, abookandahug.com
Stevie's life seems safe and full of love until the day tragedy strikes. Stevie is sent to live with her estranged grandfather Winston at his rundown motel. Though the colorful tenants who inhabit the motel are quickly charmed by Stevie, she struggles to connect with her grandfather. What dark secret is he keeping from her? It will take another difficult departure before Winston realizes just how strongly Stevie has taken root at the motel--and in his heart.--from the publisher
With unwavering emotion and masterful storytelling, National Book Award-winning author Kimberly Willis Holt explores themes of loss, family, love, and the importance of finding a place to call home.
328 pages 978-1627793247 Ages 8-13