Hope didn’t even know that Grace was missing—she thought the girl to whom she’s secretly written for years was imaginary.
Besides Grace, whom else could the friendless Hope talk to? Her apparently depressed, unemployed mother, Flora, mostly stays in bed, and her Granny is a bit crusty. The full dimensions of her mother’s situation gradually emerge: Flora never really knew Hope’s father, and worse, she gave up Hope’s twin, Grace, for adoption after the 2-year-old developed polio. Then Granny dies, leaving their sad situation even more uncertain, so Hope does what a resourceful girl can: She embarks on a plan to find Grace and heal her mother’s pain. Though the story is set in 1954, there is disappointingly little period flavor. Hope’s childlike voice and some of her letters capture the 11-year-old’s pain and frustration but often fail to fully convey the necessary distress, leaving readers to fill in the many blanks. She reports her mother’s shortcomings, but her sometimes-blithe pluck in this undermines the tension. (The story kicks off the Gutsy Girl series, perhaps accounting for Hope’s attitude.) Given Flora’s unfortunate history with men, her maturing relationship with Mr. Pinn, a lawyer whose role ensures a feel-good conclusion, seems improbable. Citra wraps it all up too neatly and sweetly for full believability.
Dysfunctional-mother fiction is a crowded genre; this one lacks sufficient punch to distinguish itself. (Historical fiction. 10-13)