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.
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