Sixth-grader Olympia—called Ollie by her best friends, Richard and Alex—is left fending for herself when her father disappears and her mother experiences a major depressive crisis.
A vividly depicted urban landscape firmly establishes this novel in the SoHo of 1981, where Ollie lives in a converted industrial loft and picks up packs of cigarettes and Tab at a store on Broadway for her mom. A talented artist, Ollie’s mom has stopped getting out of bed since Ollie’s father, an art restorer, embarked on a clandestine trip to France a week before. At first glance, this elegantly nostalgic and leisurely paced story, sparingly illustrated with delicate pencil drawings, is a mystery involving a valuable wood carving on which Ollie’s dad and his business partner, Apollo, were working. However, there are so many other themes at play—including the intricacies of friendships, the pain of living with depression, and art’s ability to create meaning out of life’s ordinary and sometimes-difficult circumstances—that it defies simple genre categorization. A host of honest, flawed, deeply sympathetic characters that are poignant and funny are at once unique and familiar. Ollie, her parents, and Alex seem to be white by default, Apollo grew up in Poland, and Richard is a black boy of Haitian heritage. There is realistic ethnic diversity reflected in secondary and background characters.
Lovely, sad, hopeful, and memorable. (Historical fiction. 9-12)