The short thought: Oh my goodness, love, love, love.
And now, the long:
Even though I’ve been eagerly anticipating this book’s release, and even though I had it sitting on my to-read pile, and even though I’d heard gushing things about COUNTING BY 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan…it sat, unopened.
I didn’t want to not-love it. I’ve been doing a lot of not-loving in my reading lately. But then my good smart friend, Tam, mentioned how much she loved it.
I am feeling so so thankful for Tam. For lots of reasons, but at this particular booky moment, for nudging me to read the exact book I needed.
From goodreads: Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life . . . until now.
Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read.
There are so many reasons to love this book. I think it’s the kind of book that will touch people in different ways. For me, there is a very personal reason why this book touched my heart. My father was killed in a car accident. Loss is always hard. But when it happens without any kind of warning, it shakes everything. There is no preparation, no plan in place.
It happened a long time ago, and yet, sometimes, particularly in October, it feels not so long ago at all. And this October, on the anniversary of his death, my lovely amazing daughter turned 19 – the age I was when he died. So. I cried while reading this one. A lot. But I needed to, and this book helped me realize that. And, a little bit like what happens to Willow, some surprising things – some good, but confusing things – got wrapped up in that time. Loss or not, life goes on. Grief can get mixed up in goodness, too. And anniversary dates can get new meanings.
But this also means I need some help articulating what else I loved about this book.
Tam and I exchanged a few emails about it once I was done reading – and then Sharry chimed in too. I’ve decided to post our thoughts below–our comments may be raw and rough, but they are also honest and true.
ME: Love is such an elusive thing, ain’t it? I think it’s because all the characters are so imperfectly perfect. Just doing the best they can. There’s so much good being done in small simple ways that turned out to be bigger than they should have been. And serendipity always makes my heart thrum, even when it’s orchestrated. Most of all, I think it’s because it made me cry when I needed to, but didn’t have a reason. I do love getting in other peoples’ heads.
TAM: Yes! They were so imperfectly perfect. And yes they were all trying to do good in their own small ways. They were also all so big hearted. Even if they didn’t quite know it. I think I love that. Watching a heart reveal itself. It all felt so raw to me. Like watching a running race. Bodies moving, hearts pumping, breath moving in and out. Willow and everyone around her were so raw and alive. Serendipity makes my heart thrum too… I can never get enough. How we are all connected. How we inevitably, unintentionally affect one another.
ME: And the white space too. That there’s room to figure out what each person is thinking – it’s not spelled out. In fact, I’m sure we filled the gaps in slightly differently. But that’s the magic. We read the same book, but a different one too.
TAM: Yeah! The white space! I LOVED that about Counting By 7s. White space combined with heartful characters really works magic, I think. You are drawn in by their hearts and then once you are in, you are given space to let yourself feel and imagine and hope and create…. Kind of spectacular.
SHARRY: I loved Willow–all of her quirks and lovely oddness around her brilliance. I loved the cast of outsiders and how they came together–how their own outsiderness made them empathetic and responsive to what Willow needed. I loved watching especially Dell and Quang-ha blossom and reveal themselves. I loved the way Holly showed and handled Willow’s grief. I cried through half the book and laughed through the other half.
Yep. Go read it. Get connected. (Yes, I am being bossy.)
WRITING ON THE SIDEWALK