Author: Catherine Ryan Hyde
Published By: Lake Union Publishing
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Some books catch your attention with a glance at the cover. Now, I know that the old adage goes: you can’t judge a book by its cover. But it was the cover, featuring a dog with two boys on either side of it, that caused me to read the description of Say Goodbye for Now. The cover and the description combined told me that I might be interested in reading this book.
Say Goodbye for Now is set in 1959 rural Texas, where we meet Pete Solomon, a twelve-year-old boy with a high sense of morals. When Pete and his friend Jake come across a large dog that has been hit by a car lying on the side of the road, Pete instantly knows he must get this dog help. His friend continues on to fish in the lake, but Pete runs home to get a wagon to tote the dog in and brings it to the local vet. The vet, seeing that this animal is more of a wolf/dog hybrid, refuses to care for the animal, but his assistant sends him to the home of Dr. Lucy.
On his way to the isolated ranch where Dr. Lucy lives, Pete meets Justin, a young boy who has the misfortune of moving into the neighborhood during summer, so he hasn’t had the chance to meet a lot of people. Pete and Justin become instant friends, but Pete can’t stay – he has to get help for this animal. He continues on to Dr. Lucy’s house where he finds a woman who is somewhat cold towards humans, but rather caring towards animals. She has a number of dogs, horses and exotic animals she has rescued over the years at her ranch and is more than willing to help Pete’s canine friend.
Dr. Lucy has been somewhat of a recluse since her divorce and really has no use for most people, but she sees something in the selflessness of Pete and decides to allow him to return to look after the wolf-dog he has named Prince, reminding him that he is a wild animal and will eventually have to be returned to the wild.
It’s been a tough day for Pete, but things seem to be looking up – he’s made a new friend and saved an animal’s life – until he gets home and has to deal with his abusive father’s wrath. Not only has Pete returned home late, but he was seen with a boy who is “not of their kind.” Pete can’t understand why his father would be mad at him making friends with a boy simply because he has a different color skin and he resolves to stay friends with Justin. But when he comes across Justin after he has been severely beaten by grown men, he realizes just how evil adults can be. He takes Justin to the only person he knows that has shown him they can be trusted, caring and compassionate – Dr. Lucy.
It soon becomes apparent that the reason for Justin’s beating is the color of his skin. As she is caring for him, Dr. Lucy becomes close to Justin’s father Calvin. She, too, becomes the target of some wrath as people assume she might be having relations with Calvin, an act that would be against the law in Texas at the time. Forced to say goodbye for now, Dr. Lucy, Pete, Calvin and Justin can only hope that the world can catch up to them and accept the feelings of family they share with one another.
What a beautiful story! It is horrible to think that there was once a time in this world when the color of one’s skin was used to judge one’s character and that, if your skin wasn’t white, you were subject to deep discrimination. The color of your skin determined how well you would do in life, what jobs you could get, where you could eat and sleep and who you could marry. It’s terrible to realize that there are still those who discriminate just as deeply as they would have had they lived in 1959. Thus, the book is still relevant today, reminding readers that no matter the color of your skin, there are bad folks and there are good folks and nobody should be discriminated against based on color or creed or orientation.
I loved that the reclusive Dr. Lucy rescued animals, feeling happier amongst discarded Thoroughbreds and dogs, and injured pigs, eagles and owls. Loss and broken hearts drove her to a point where she could no longer trust people, but knew that she never had to worry about being double-crossed by an animal. Fortunately, Pete, Justin and Calvin wandered into her life to teach her trust and even love again.
Pete is somewhat the tragic hero of the novel, bringing all of the characters together and suffering great pains (literally and figuratively) because of it. Though he doesn’t have much in the way of book smarts, Pete has strong convictions regarding what is right and what is wrong, quick wit, loyalty and other great qualities that makes him very special to the reader. We hope for great things for Pete and celebrate every accomplishment. We also can’t help but love Prince..who is actually the reason all of these folks came together in the first place.
Say Goodbye for Now is a captivating story filled with emotion and social relevance. The book is well-written and the main characters are extremely likeable and believable. I loved the references to the Loving court case – history is one of my favorite subjects and I believe it is important for people to learn from this country’s past mistakes. Tolerance is something I believe in strongly and this novel is definitely a good teaching tool for tolerance. This novel shows that some love is worth waiting for and that love, hope and perseverance will always conquer hate. And it’s just plain enjoyable – definitely worth the read!