In this moving first novel, Josh, 13, must struggle through his grief alone after the sudden death of his older brother, Toby. Although the Harding family is loving and demonstrative, the parents are incapable of relieving Josh's pain; he prefers to flee from his loss by racing through the nearby orange grove. Here, in a cramped, backwoods shack, Josh befriends Mattie and her illiterate granddaughter, Bess Ann, friends of Toby's who are unaware of his death. Through them, he finds a way to keep his brother alive. Some readers will raise an eyebrow at Russell's portrayal of Josh and Mattie's video-free homes this small Florida town: The Hardings live modestly off the father's income as a woodworker, while Mattie doesn't even own a phone. As the summer progresses, Josh finishes a fence his brother had started for Mattie and teaches Bess Ann to read. Russell's metaphor of mending extends to the boy, as well, who realizes he must tell Mattie the truth. While the confession scene is more gentle than dramatic, it is nevertheless an effective and realistic catharsis. More than bibliotherapy, this is an uplifting tale about the resilience and capacity of the human heart.