Books by Mark Jonathan Harris

An experienced author of contemporary fiction for children movingly addresses the problem of homeless families in stark, unsentimental style. Ben, 13, is the oldest child in a Texas family that also includes his mother, Constance, and a younger brother and sister. The four have come to Los Angeles in search of Clyde, Ben's father, who—alcoholic and unemployed—has deserted them. With the address on a money order Clyde sent them as their only clue, they embark on an unsuccessful search that drains their resources. A stay at a run-down transient hotel is terminated when their money is stolen; a mission church exchanges food and a blanket for assigned Bible reading; a Vietnam veteran offers shelter, but they leave when it becomes clear that his interest in Constance doesn't extend to the children. Finally, when they are bereft of all shelter, a priest finds them a place in a well-run Salvation Army shelter—where they are able to regroup, accept the reality that Clyde does not want to be found, and face the future. What elevates this from a tract is the strong characterization of Ben, whose troubled but steady love for his father lends poignancy to a timely story, told honestly and effectively. An "Afterword" places the story in context. Read full book review >