HEART WITH JOY
by Steve Cushman
Canterbury House Publishing
Vilas, North Carolina
Fifteen-year-old Julian Hale is not the typical teenage male. Instead of playing sports or actively dating, Julian loves spending time cooking with his mother. Julian’s world is upended when his mother unexpectedly moves to Florida and suspects her reason, to manage her parents’ motel, is just an excuse. Julian, who rarely interacts with his father, blames him but remains behind, determined to move to Florida after the school year ends. When an elderly neighbor befriends Julian, he begins to enjoy his time with her, feeding and watching the birds in her yard. Through her, Julian begins to understand it’s important to know someone other than superficially and to follow one’s passion. Since Julian’s passion is cooking, he begins to make dinners for his father and befriends a young woman who shares his love for cooking. When school ends, Julian is faced with the decision to move to Florida or stay at home with his father and new friends.
This well-written coming-of-age novel is heartwarming and poignant. Characterization is exceptional and realistic, the plot meaningful and intriguing. The development of the relationship between Julian and his father as it evolves is insightful and well-done. Through Julian’s narrative, the reader witnesses his journey of self-discovery, acceptance of his parents’ estranged relationship, and love of family and friends.