What I Came To Tell You

What I Came To Tell You

3.79 (331 ratings by Goodreads)
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Since his mother died earlier this year, Grover Johnston (named after a character in Thomas Wolfe's Look Homeward Angel) has watched his family fall to pieces as his father throws himself into his work rather than dealing with the pain. Left to care for his younger sister, Sudie, Grover finds solace in creating intricate weavings out of the natural materials found in the bamboo forest behind his North Carolina home, a pursuit that his father sees only as a waste of time. But as tensions mount between father and son, unlikely forces conspire to help the Johnstons find their way.

The new tenants in the rental house across the street who have come from deep in the Carolina hills seem so different from the Johnstons, but become increasingly intertwined with them in unexpected ways. Classmates, neighbors, teachers, and coworkers band together, forming a community that can save a family from itself.

In the spirit of such beloved novels as Newbery Medal-winning Missing May and Because of Winn-Dixie, What I Came to Tell You, the first middle-grade novel from critically acclaimed Asheville author Tommy Hays, is a story of grief, love, and hard-won redemption. Warm, evocative writing blends with an emotion-laden narrative that cuts to the heart of the reader.

-- "Journal"
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Product details

  • 12-17
  • Hardback | 300 pages
  • 143 x 216 x 33.02mm | 415g
  • New York, NY, United States
  • English
  • 1606844334
  • 9781606844335

Review quote

When his mother is hit by a car and killed, Grover blames himself and retreats into his art; he constructs frames from the bamboo stand next to his home and weaves branches and leaves into the frames in intricate and beautiful patterns. His father worries about this method of managing grief, especially as it becomes almost obsessive, but Grover's younger sister, Sudie, and his new friends Clay and Emma Lee see the beauty in what he is doing as well as its therapeutic value. Sudie, Clay, and Emma Lee are old souls, each helping Grover in a distinct way as his sharp edges are worn away by grief. Clay and Emma Lee lost their father twice, first to PTSD, which left him angry and abusive upon his return from Iraq, and then again when he was killed there after returning, so their prior experience with grief gives them insight into Grover's moods and wishes, while Sudie simply needs to be with her brother, anchoring them both in their loss. Hays is a gifted storyteller, offering up an effective balance of credible emotion, understated wisdom, and gentle humor as Grover seeks help and resists it, alternating between lashing out and reaching out to the people who love him. Grover's father is credible both as he retreats into his work upon the death of his wife and resurfaces when he realizes his son's needs and the possibility of a new life with Clay and Emma Lee's mother. A strong sense of community also pervades the novel, a community of open-hearted as well as selfish individuals who all work to keep each other in check and ultimately encourage both better behavior and humble acceptance of human failings in the face of life's tragedies. --starred, The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

-- "Journal"
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About Tommy Hays

Tommy Hays is the author of three novels for adults, including "The Pleasure Was Mine." He is Executive Director of the Great Smokies Writing Program and a lecturer in the Master of Liberal Arts Program at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. He lives in Asheville with his family.
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Rating details

331 ratings
3.79 out of 5 stars
5 28% (94)
4 39% (129)
3 21% (71)
2 6% (20)
1 5% (17)
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