This story was so well told, it made me laugh and cry and made my heart ache. It belongs in that group of books like Missing May or Bridge to Terabithia that are beautiful and heart-wrenching at the same time. The characters are so real - Naomi ("Chirp") with her passion for bird watching, Rachel as the moody teenage big sister, Dad with his calm psychiatrist voice and need to talk about everything, Mom with her dancing heart and laughter, and Joey with his overly strict father and delinquent brothers. You can see them all so clearly as you read, and you can hear the ocean in the background just as it is in their everyday lives. You can also hear all the things that help to anchor the story in its 1972 setting - "I think I love you" on the radio and "Get Smart" on the TV and talk of draft dodgers running off to Canada.
Something that really came through for me was the emotions - Mom's depression, Dad's worry, Rachel's anger, Chirp's fear - whatever they were feeling was there in each scene, easy to identify with or sympathize. I don't want to give away too much, but Mom's health problems and the way they impact the family drive the story and motivate Chirp's actions. Another thing that rang true was Chirp's teacher, Miss Gallagher, with all her "nifty" ideas. I had teachers like her and I can remember sitting in the reading corner trying to choose between The Secret Garden and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, or groaning over the part I was assigned for the class play.
It truly is a wonderful story about family and friendship and loss - and I cried my way through the second half of the book. I recommend reading it with your box of tissues close at hand.
I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. It will go on sale on September 9, 2014.