Debut author Richards’ novel is based on the author’s journey through grief after the loss of her son.
When 16-year-old Tyler died in a car accident in Walled Lake, Mich., on Sept. 21, 2003, the tragedy sent shock waves through his family and his community. His parents and brother suffered the sharpest sense of loss, but as a kind, popular teen, many friends and neighbors felt the weight of his death as well. In the novel, everyone mourns differently—some look for signs that he’s with them in spirit, some cope with their feelings through writing, some speak about him at public functions to honor his memory—and while the pain never disappears completely, his loved ones gradually begin to heal as they draw together in support and affection. Richards spends some time exploring the aftereffects of Tyler’s death from the teen’s perspective as he watches over his grieving loved ones from heaven. The emphasis, however, is primarily on his mother’s mourning process (Tyler watches over her whenever she visits his grave or writes in her journal). The book also includes a large number of letters and poems written about Tyler, and these help diversify the perspective. In one letter, his cousin Megan said, “I promise to continue to tell every person I meet about the wonderful person you were.” His friend Amy wrote a poem: “Goodbye to my friend / There will never be an end / To what you’ve left behind / To the memories, in everyone’s mind.” The notes vary, but each expresses how much Tyler means to whomever wrote it. The people who knew Tyler while he was alive continue to be affected by him after his death. The book describes Tyler as a hardworking athlete with great spirit and an eagerness to help his peers whenever possible; after his death, a scholarship fund is set up in his memory, and the money is awarded to those students who best exhibit his degree of sportsmanship.
Movingly captures the effect one well-loved teenager had on his community.