Witucki offers a bittersweet novel about a friendship between two blind people of different ages.
Middle school student Tallie Keller has been blind since birth and feels constantly frustrated and upset with her family, her schooling, and her life in general. Then she becomes acquainted with a middle-aged librarian, Benjamin Brown, who was born with sight but lost his vision over time. They meet when Tallie calls him for library assistance and they start a conversation that extends over multiple calls. Tallie, who’s white, feels hemmed in by the limitations that blindness puts on her already difficult middle school life; Benjamin, an African-American, has lived a long and painful existence, facing social prejudices against his race and his disability, as well as poverty and other personal tragedies. An extraordinary year of learning and friendship ensues for them both, as Benjamin helps Tallie to accept both her sightlessness and her potential. Overall, Witucki’s characters are three-dimensional and warm, but the story never feels sappy or sentimental. (The on-the-nose quality of a blind character’s last name being Keller is impossible to ignore, but it doesn’t harm the narrative.) Witucki’s central themes of accepting one’s limitations without capitulating to them, the possibility of two people striking up a friendship despite their differences, and the ways in which fear limits possibilities in life are compelling. The dialogue is clear and believable throughout, and the novel’s alternating points of view feel both conversational and tightly structured. The story expresses aspects of blind living that may be unfamiliar to many, and as Tallie learns to step outside herself, so will readers.
A human, humane, and uplifting story.