Teddy, 17, makes a promise to his Alzheimer’s-stricken grandfather, Gpa, to bring him home from assisted living before he forgets Teddy’s deceased grandmother.
An evening on the beach listening to his talented friend Corrina, adopted from Guatemala, sing and play guitar gives Teddy a rash idea for the three of them (and Gpa’s aptly named dog, Old Humper) to drive from LA to Ithaca, New York. Although Teddy is the one telling the story, the three main characters and their individual needs for the road trip are equally well fleshed out. Corrina needs to get away from her adoptive parents and try to break into the music scene. She shares a love of ’60s rock with Gpa, creating a bond that helps keep his memories alive. Gpa, a Vietnam vet who has demons of his own to put to rest, is trying to hold onto his faculties against overwhelming odds. Teddy’s voice is humorous and sincere. He flirts with Corrina and remains optimistic that things will work out despite the obstacles they encounter. At a Mexican-themed restaurant, Teddy realizes how ignorant he is of the everyday racism that Corrina encounters: “It was like my whiteness just put pirate patches over my eyes and I was blind to all the pain.”
Readers will be swept up in Kiely’s musical prose as Teddy learns about love, romance, forgiveness, and reconciliation. (Fiction. 13-17)