Sometimes it just seems that violence will never stop. Regardless of the motives behind the numerous killings we’ve recently witnessed in different parts of the world, the result is always the same. More and more deaths.
How can we even face our children?
When my own kids were very young I always turned to art in times of turmoil and sorrow. Art is such a consolation when there is too much hurt around us.
While we face another despicable shooting in Southern California, where my son studies and people I know live, I thought of two books I read recently. Both are from well-established and skilled authors. Both are short, so expertly crafted that each word has a purpose. Both stayed at the periphery of my mind since I read them. Some books are like that. And today they are perfect to prove that we can be so much more than killers of our own species. Humanity always wins.
Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt
Joseph is only thirteen when he becomes a father. He has never seen Jupiter, his baby daughter and yet loves her beyond reason. Joseph has been in an abusive familial relationship, has deeply loved the mother of their baby and also spent time in a juvenile facility. When he’s released Joseph is placed with a foster family on a farm in Maine, where he meets Jack, the farmers’ twelve-year-old son, two years younger than him. Jack is a quiet boy and the narrator of this heart-wrenching novel that tells of Joseph’s relentless search for Jupiter. Several adults play a crucial role in the novel. I especially fell for the father who shows so much understanding for Joseph and for his son at the bittersweet ending. Orbiting Jupiter is one of the most significant novels I recently read on the true meaning of family.
Two personal bonuses:
- I’m a little partial to Maine and I find the author’s descriptions of rural Maine remarkable.
- Through the book there are several references to Octavian Nothing, an exceptional novel in two volumes, written by M. T. Anderson, one of my favorite authors.
The Boy on the Porch by Sharon Creech
When a young childless couple finds a child asleep on their porch, with a note asking them to keep him until someone will pick him up, they wonder who could possibly abandon a young child to strangers. Soon, however, they fall for the mute but enchanting artistic boy and start almost immediately to worry about his departure. Through his time with his temporary family Jacob develops a strong relationship with the family dog and also the cows (Sure to win young readers’ hearts). Jacob’s rough father eventually picks him up one day, and the couple mourns him until they decide to become foster parents. In this manner they will get to know dozens of children, each with a unique and often difficult story. Through them they will often recall the boy left on their porch years ago. The ending of the novel brings him back. But I won’t tell you more.
These two books are charged with beautiful human feelings. In two very different ways they tell of foster kids and foster families’ stories. As I read them I felt an enormous amount of hope for our world. I’m not a huge fan of the word “moral” and yet these two novels depict adults acting with a deep sense of right and wrong, always in favor of the children.
For this reason I find them perfect for these moments of violence when we want to reassure children and prove to them that most adults are there for them. Always. No matter what.
Peace to each of you during the holiday season.