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Friday, April 23, 2021

All the Children Are Home by Patry Francis

All The Children Are Home by Patry Francis
Published by Harper Perennial ISBN 9780063045446
Trade paperback, $16.99, 384 pages

Sometimes you finish a book that touches your heart so that when you finish it, you want to immediately turn to the first page and begin reading it all over again; Patry Francis' novel, All The Children Are Home, is such a book.

Set in 1959 in a small town near Boston, Dahlia and her husband Louie Moscatelli have a home with three foster children- teenagers Jimmy and Zaidie, and Zaidie's younger brother Jon. They have a tightknit family. One day a social worker asks them to take in a eight year-old girl named Agnes on an temporary emergency placement.

Dahlia and Louie have agreed "no more emergencies", but Dahlia relents and accepts Agnes. Agnes is very small for her age, she suffered from a failure to thrive as an infant, and has come from a bad placement. One of the saddest things in her story is that she only learned her colors from the Jello she ate in the hospital.

Agnes is part Native American, and her previous foster father treated her cruelly because of that. When she arrived at Dahlia and Louie's, the other children were immediately protective of Agnes. Being allowed to eat at the table with the family was new to her, and the other children teach her everything she needs to know. Zaidie gives Agnes her shamrock barrettes, and Jimmy teaches her how to play baseball.

Dahlia is an agoraphobic, spending her days doing puzzles, watching soap operas, and reading Reader's Digest condensed books from the library. Louie works long hours as a mechanic, and although he is gruff, he is kind to the children, slipping them money to get candy at the store. Agnes says that Dahlia is "a shadow- always present, but less real than everything around her." We eventually discover the reason behind that.

The neighbors don't like the Moscatellis, frequently complaining about the children. Some of the kids at school are cruel to them as well, and Jimmy seems to suffer more than the others as he grows older. Zaidie is smart and organized, she has goals in life, even taping photos of her heroes- Eleanor Roosevelt among them- on her wall for inspiration.

All The Children Are Home is about what it means to be a family. This family is not perfect in the eyes of the world, but they are to each other. They face many challenges as the children grow older, and how this family loves and supports each other in the face of disdain from neighbors and harassment from schoolmates is heartwarming, heartbreaking and hopeful. I read this book in one day and I will be recommending it to everyone. With unforgettable characters, it is simply one of the best books I have read in a long time.

My review of Patry Francis' previous novel, The Orphans of Race Point,  is here.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like such a good book and the ratings on Goodreads are very positive, too. My aunt is very involved with CASA and her daughter has fostered (and adopted) two young girls. This book is of great interest to me. Thanks for the wonderful review!