Although spunky Isabelle refuses to die of a broken heart, sometimes it seems like it might happen anyway.
The source of her heartbreak is the death of her father, which is complicated by the resulting move from her childhood home of Milwaukee to Minneapolis. She’s enrolled in a new school, with all the usual discomfort that can cause. She and her mother are having a hard time communicating, and this is not helped by the fact that their new apartment is upstairs in the home of elderly sisters Flora and Dora, who seem to Isabelle to be inordinately meddlesome. Margaret, a classmate who lives with her boisterous family across the street, and her best friend, Grace, reach out to Isabelle. It’s only slowly revealed that it isn’t just her father’s death and constant reminders of his absence that are causing Isabelle’s grief and even anger; he committed suicide, and she found his body. St. Anthony revisits some of the characters from her previous two outings, Grace Above All and The Summer Sherman Loved Me (2007, 2006), and sets this story likewise in the 1960s. Each character is finely delineated, contributing to the plausibility of Isabelle’s situation. Gently depicted incidents of everyday life believably provide a balm for Isabelle’s aching soul.
Stories for the middle-grade audience that deal with the suicide of a parent are few, and this one, sensitive but never syrupy, stands out. (Historical fiction. 10-14)