My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Twelve-year-old Cora knows a lot about the trees classified in her father’s field journal, now her Tree Book since he passed away six years ago. “It holds the secret for all growing things,” her mother said. Every tree Cora comes across is jotted down. With the constant moving, it helps Cora define where she is.
Cora loves climbing trees and drawing pictures on her hand to share with her mother. Her ten-year-old sister, “Adare sees things a different way,” and always looking to the sky. She also prefers being barefoot, (on the city streets!) doesn’t ask questions, and wins people over instantly with her smile. Sometimes Cora feels she has to remind her mother she’s there too.
For now, they live at the Ennis House. It’s near an oil-slicked canal in Brooklyn where Cora likes watching the floating broken rainbows no one else sees. Old Lou stands guard at Ennis House. Cora, Adare, her mother, and Snookie the cat pass over the grimy floors, a cockroach that hasn’t moved in three days, the place smells of cat pee, and they deadbolt the lock.
“We’ve never lived in a shelter before, and even if we’ve never lived much of anywhere for too long, it feels like, for the first time, we don’t have a home. We’re homeless. For real.”
They’re on a list, waiting for housing Cora’s mother can afford.
Cora wishes her mother had walls to paint murals the way she used to, but she works long hours and Cora does her best to help take care of her sister. They meet daily at the nearby park after school and wait for her to pick them up because Ennis House isn’t safe.
They’re waiting longer than they ever have.
She doesn’t come.
It’s dark out.
Cora has to get back to Ennis House with her sister, though her mother said to never go there without her. But that’s where she’s headed and she takes her sister’s hand.
I loved this book, though the subject is difficult. As a child, my mother was in a similar situation, and I found this written with sensitivity and a certain dreamy quality I found comforting. The author’s vivid prose is magical, such a beautiful story of love and finding your home.
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