Friday, February 6, 2015

A Million Ways Home by Dianna Dorisi Winget, 2014

A moving middle-grade story about love, loss, and the unlikely places we find home.
Poppy's life has been turned upside down after her grandma (and guardian) had a stroke and ended up in the hospital. But Poppy is working on a plan to help Grandma Beth so their life together can go back to normal. But when she witnesses an armed robbery, "back to normal" slips even further out of her reach. To keep Poppy safe, the budget-strapped police devise an unusual "witness protection program," wherein Poppy will stay with Detective Brannigan's mother. Soon Poppy is feeling almost at home, even making sort-of friends with a girl named Lizzie and definitely friending Gunner, a beautiful dog with an uncertain fate. But it's still not home. So while she and Lizzie navigate a rocky friendship and plot to save Gunner's life, Poppy also tries to figure out a new plan to save Grandma Beth and their home, all while avoiding a dangerous robber who might be searching for her. But what if Grandma Beth can never come home and the robber is put behind bars? What will happen to Poppy then?
(272 pages)

What a good book! I went into it expecting a book with nothing special to offer, that thought it was offering the world. Instead I found a sweet, poignant tale of family, loss, and love (familial love, not romantic love - I was worried about that when I read the synopsis!), and all the different types of "home." I enjoyed myself greatly while reading the entire book, and then after finishing it read back through to watch the development of a certain relationship throughout the book. Which one, you ask? It doesn't really matter; they're all great. The particular one I wanted to retrace was between Poppy and Trey, but it could have just as easily been between Poppy and pretty much any other main character, or even just between two other main characters with no Poppy involved.

You  see, this is a book about relationships. Not even just Poppy's relationships, though those often take center stage, but all sorts relationships. The relationships between Poppy and Lizzie, Lizzie and her unseen dad (Lizzie's parents recently got divorced), Trey and Poppy, Poppy and Grandma Beth - honestly, it goes on and on. And it's beautiful.

Now, Poppy was a great if sometimes infuriating character. She wandered away way too often for someone under a modified version of witness protection. To be fair, though, she had a ton on her plate so I think she just kind of didn't have room in her head to worry about the robber coming after her. When your grandmother/legal guardian is in the hospital because she keeps having strokes and you're only out of the Children's Center because you are a witness from a murder case . . . well, either you're going to crack with stress or you're going to kind of ignore one of the stressing factors. So while I don't love her to pieces, I do love her just a little bit. Because she went through so much, and was so brave, and - well, I don't know. I guess that kind of sums it up.

The story is both sad and sweet, and its tale of loss is offset by a thread of love and friendships. It's the kind of book that makes you give a happy sigh as you put it down, and makes you reread it every few years if you spot it on a library shelf. I don't know if I'd want to own it, because it's not quite that good, but I'll definitely reread it down the road.

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