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SWEET BY AND BY by Patricia Hermes


by Patricia Hermes

Age Range: 9 - 12

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-380-97452-5
Publisher: HarperCollins

Times are hard for Blessing and her elderly grandmother, Monnie, and they’re about to get harder. Hermes (A Perfect Place, above, etc.) tells this story in the voice of the 11-year-old protagonist as she comes to term with the impending death of her guardian and beloved grandmother. Monnie has cared for Blessing for nine years, since Blessing’s mother died, leaving the two-year-old without parents. Her father had died before her birth in a mine accident that also killed her grandfather. Blessing, seemingly ill-named, is in fact blessed with a small but secure home, a school to attend, a beautiful singing voice, and a grandmother who loves her more than anything. Blessing’s world starts to fall apart when Monnie admits what Blessing has begun to suspect: Monnie is dying. Readers go through the predictable stages of grief as Blessing prepares for the inevitable and prays for the miracle that refuses to come. Maudlin and manipulative, this pulls every heartstring: here is Blessing sneaking out to look in on the families that Monnie has picked out as guardians; there she is fingering the violin that Monnie played while she sang along; and at the hospital, the kind doctor is explaining the hard facts to her. But at the end, all the stops are pulled out as Blessing bathes her grandmother’s body for burial. Blessing’s voice seems too mature and remarkably reflective for an 11-year-old mountain girl in the 1940s. The way Blessing and Monnie love the mountains and their neighbors, it seems hard to believe the neighbors would not be bringing food and helping out with the cleaning until Monnie is within days of her death. Indeed, Blessing attends school and leaves the dying grandmother alone all day long. No teacher intervenes and no church ladies step in to help until the very last moment. Uneven and almost unbearably sad, this is a tale that drowns in its own good intentions. (Fiction. 9-12)