WHERE WE BELONG by Catherine Ryan Hyde

where we belong Imagine being 14 year old girl with a 7 year old sister on the Autism Spectrum, and an at-the-end-of-her-rope mother who cannot cope.  No father.  He beat feet when he found out just how affected his daughter Sophie was by the Autism.  Very.  Sophie does not talk,  seems to pay no heed to what is said to her, makes no eye contact with others and screeches incessantly, for hours on end, which forces the family to be asked to leave place after place.  They finally land with a sister of a grandmother who is recently widowed.  But Sophia’s screaming becomes intolerable and she asks them to leave.  Now, with nowhere to go, and no money, they are homeless.

Can you imagine this life?

Imagine that the fate of this family is constantly falling on your young shoulders.

But before they have to leave Aunt Vi’s house, Sophie falls in love with a great dane who belongs to the next door neighbor, a grouchy curmudgeon single guy only 7 weeks away from retirement as a bank officer.  When around the dog, Sophie is silent, and learns that the dog comes and goes and is silent waiting for his next appearance.

When the man retires and moves to a house several hours away in the mountains, Sophie has a complete meltdown, thereby causing the family’s abrupt heave-ho from their temporary home.  With almost no money, and nowhere else to turn, the mother has the idea of following the man to his new town and getting the teen’s dog walking job back so Sophie can see the dog again and perhaps settled down once again.

It is a story of a family struggling to stay together without having to resort to ‘placing’ Sophie in a home.  It shows you what happens when you are out of options, money and hope.

A wonderful read.  Really.

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