Joseph, is a sixteen year old boy who, as a result of an accident, is now in a wheelchair. He carries a burden of guilt, of responsibility toward his mother who, as the book progresses, we learn has a mental illness. Joseph was her carer (of sorts) until the accident, now he lives with his emotionally distant father in the US Midwest, a long way from his home state of New York where his mother has been hospitalised.
He has two close friends at a café where he works: Zap a 17 year old boy and the café owner’s son. Zap is tall, lean, strong, all the things Joseph used to be before the accident. Zap watches out for Joseph and tries to act as a buffer between the world and Joseph’s inner turmoil. Enzo, a nine year old girl who asks too many questions, burns with an inner rage and confusion that initially makes her a character to dislike, and then a character to feel empathy for.
Much of the story occurs in the café. A few regulars, oddities in themselves, pass by and interact with the three main characters, but though this is Joseph’s story, it’s the others whom are just as wounded as he. Enzo needs Joseph to be something more than he is, and her continual prodding at him spurs his own emotional journey. Zap carries his own secret burden which becomes clear toward the end, just as the truth about Joseph’s accident is also revealed.
This is a satisfying novel about teenagers (and a child) dealing with adult issues of abandonment, responsibility and guilt. It’s impossible not to feel for these kids, and the conclusion brings explanation and a realistic way forward.
Well written and nicely paced....Continua