Our MC and first person narrator, Angie, is seven years old when we first meet her. She is happily constructing houses and villages with her playing cards…and her father is helping her.
When he leaves to get cigarettes, he will never return. His body is found…murdered.
Years later, we enter Angie’s life again, and she and her mother, with preschool sister Sophie, have just been evicted from another in a series of homes. On the verge of homelessness, they move in with Aunt Vi, who is not that happy to have them there. A sense of “waiting for the other shoe to drop” follows their every move. For Sophie has special needs—on the autism spectrum—and one of her unfortunate behaviors is shrieking endlessly until the neighbors call the cops, leading to yet another eviction.
One of the things we learn early on is that Angie is primarily the one in charge of making the plans, deciding how to handle Sophie, and finding their next move. She is only fourteen at this time, and suffering from the extra burden. But she doesn’t come across as resentful…just tired and sad and overly troubled about their future.
Then a reprieve comes their way. Next door is an older man, Paul, whose Great Dane Rigby has a powerful effect on Sophie. She watches him through the fence, he sits down near her, and they seem to connect. When she is near Rigby, Sophie is calm. There are actual hours in the day when she does not shriek.
But then everything changes. Paul is moving to the mountains…and Rigby will be gone. How will they cope?
Strangely enough, Angie’s mother takes charge of this one, and follows Paul up to his mountain home and stays nearby, waiting for the chance to reconnect with Rigby.
How does Angie manage to negotiate a new arrangement with Paul? What has brought the teenage girl and the remote man, who has always wanted his privacy, into a friendship? What will happen when life’s circumstances change again?
Where We Belong
is the kind of book I savor. The pace was calm, with the only suspense coming from wondering what Angie will do next to make their lives better. I really rooted for Angie, and while I felt sorry for Sophie, I often wondered if the mother’s inability to be firm and in charge contributed to the problems. I know that I did not like the mother and felt exasperated with her behavior and her inability to be “the mother.” I thought it was interesting that we never find out her name…and there was also a sense of a long-held secret about her husband’s murder.
A book I recommend to all who enjoy the author…and stories about dysfunctional families. In the end, I felt really good about how things were turning out. 4.0 stars.