A book like See You at Harry’s reminds us of the absolute pleasure of becoming immersed in a terrific read. Author Jo Knowles leads us to empathize with her characters, engages us in a narrative that pulls us through in ways that render true the cliché “I couldn’t put it down,” and then leaves us with the stark knowledge that tricky currents are churning in the lives of young people from their families, schools, friends, and really, contemporary culture.

As much as I admire See You at Harry's, reviewing it has built-in challenges. Not much can be said without providing unforgivable spoilers. Here’s what I can tell you though. The first third of See You at Harry’sgives us an appealing narrator, Fern, who sees the world with as much humor as she can muster given the fact that she finds every member of her family at least a little annoying. Sara, her recently-graduated sister, is too cool for everyone around her. Her 14-year old brother Holden is gay, a fact he wants to be accepted without being overtly acknowledged. Fern’s 3-year old brother Charlie is as cute as he is demanding. Fern’s mother spends way too much time in meditation. Her father is wrapped up in the family business, a struggling restaurant and ice cream shop.

This book, like life, leads us to have reasonable assumptions about what will probably happen, then surprises us with shattering events and touches of grace. Every member of the family is absorbed in her or his own problems and perspectives. After we come to know these characters and become interested and involved in how they face their problems, they are smacked with a major life-changing tragedy and are suddenly forced to deal with that … situation, and with each other in new ways.

See You at Harry’swill lead readers to consider the issue of blame. How do we handle being blamed? What if we blame ourselves? When is blame reasonable? What if we are blaming someone for something that is too much for one person to bear, even if the person is guilty? What does blame accomplish? What are alternatives to blaming?

As in her previous fine novels, Jo Knowles writes with humor and compassion as she conveys complex emotions without crossing into melodrama. As I read the last two pages of See You at Harry’s, I found myself getting a little choked up. I’m edging close to one of those spoilers here, so I’ll bring this to a close by simply saying the ending is pitch perfect.

See You at Harry’s? Yes

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Comment by Rachel Tenuta on October 23, 2012 at 6:19pm

This book sounds extremely interesting, and I've been longing for a "I couldn't put it down" type read. I'm definitely going to find and read this. 

I think it's interesting how you bring up inferences we often make while reading. I know people often feel that they can predict the ending of novels while reading them and I always wonder if this mindset takes away from a good novel? When people are so focused on their own predictions I feel like there is potential to look past certain details, or become disappointed if it ends differently then they had thought. But in actuality these novels are often some of the strongest because they have the ability to mislead the readers and keep them on their toes. Because of this I often try to stop myself from predictions, whether it be for a novel or a movie. This is often difficult to do since my mind often tries to predict everything but the suspense that this allows is always very exciting. 

But anyways, I really liked your review. It made me very curious without giving anything away. Can't wait to read it!

Comment by Danielle M. on October 23, 2012 at 7:43pm
This book sounds like a fun read. I love books that have a good sense of humor. I'll have to find a copy.

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