MY FATHER'S WORDS by Patricia MacLachlan
Kirkus Star


Age Range: 8 - 12
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When a freak accident kills their father, Declan, the O’Brien family must discover how to heal.

When Declan makes eggs, they are typically runny, but when Fiona complains, he tells her, “It’s the eternal fitness of things,” without any further explanation. Other phrases he loved were “Dona nobis pacem” and “often the truth is just behind the door.” These and many other lovable idiosyncrasies will never be fully explained to Fiona and younger brother Finn, because as Declan drives to help one of his psychiatric patients, a child races after a ball that has rolled into the street. Declan swerves but is struck by a truck and killed instantly, off the page and in the first chapter. As the O’Brien family struggles with grief and anger, help comes in two unusual ways. First, Thomas, one of Declan’s patients, calls Fiona each Monday for two minutes only and shares insights about her father. Secondly, neighbor and classmate Luke invites Fiona and Finn to go with him to a local animal rescue shelter to read to abandoned dogs. With her customary precise, spare language, infused with emotional intelligence, MacLachlan takes readers from shocked grief to a way to live again, fundamental truths dropped carefully and delicately for young readers to comprehend in their own time.

Simple words make a flawless story about resilience, hope, healing, and the eternal fitness of things. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2nd, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-06-268769-2
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2018


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