Synopses & Reviews
"Twelve-year-old Grover loves making weavings out of leaves and branches he finds in a nearby bamboo forest, but he has other things on his mind, too. Mostly his mother, who was recently killed in a car accident, but also his younger sister, his pretty new neighbor, and his difficult relationship with his father, who works all the time and doesn't even pretend to appreciate Grover's art. In his middle-grade debut, adult author and North Carolinian Hays makes good use of the novel's Asheville setting: Grover's father runs the strapped-for-cash Thomas Wolfe house, and Asheville comes across as a cosmopolitan place with a small-town feel. Indeed, even as Grover is keeping an eye on his sister and his new neighbors, a lot of people are watching over him. Though the book spans just a few months, it's packed with incident and complex connections between a range of characters. Hays is especially strong at depicting the network of people, old and young, who help Grover and his family move through their grief and, along the way, save his beloved forest. Ages 10 up. Agent: Neeti Madan, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Since his mother died earlier this year, Grover Johnston (named after a character in Thomas Wolfe's Look Homeward Angel) has watched his family fall to pieces as his father throws himself into his work rather than dealing with the pain. Left to care for his younger sister, Sudie, Grover finds solace in creating intricate weavings out of the natural materials found in the bamboo forest behind his North Carolina home, a pursuit that his father sees only as a waste of time.
But as tensions mount between father and son, two unlikely forces conspire to lead the Johnstons on a new path -- a presence that seems to come to Grover in his darkest moments and new tenants in the rental house across the street who have come from deep in the Carolina hills and plopped themselves right into Grover's life. The families seem so different but become increasingly intertwined, bound together in unexpected ways. Until one devastating disaster threatens to tear them apart.
Tender, touching, and utterly compelling, What I Came to Tell You, the first middle-grade novel from critically acclaimed Asheville author Tommy Hays, is a story of grief, love, and hard-won redemption.
A 2013 Fall Okra Pick, Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance
* “Hays is a gifted storyteller, offering up an effective balance of credible emotion, understated wisdom, and gentle humor.”—The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, starred review
* “Hays is especially strong at depicting the network of people, old and young, who help Grover and his family move through their grief and, along the way, save his beloved forest.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Hays’ story is filled with touching honesty and youthful wisdom, all of which help undergird Grover’s own discovery of the healing power of family, love, and art.”
“Readers will be quickly and surely drawn in by quirky siblings Grover and Sudie, rooting for them to find a measure of peace and happiness in the wake of tragedy.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Set in Asheville, North Carolina, the story has a pleasing Southern flavor.”
—School Library Journal
“Throw in some local politics, prejudice, budding romances, family tugs-of-war and an odd man who seems to linger everywhere, and you have a penetrating and complex story of loss and, ultimately, the rebuilding of a family. Tommy Hays’ first middle grade novel, What I Came to Tell You is a thoughtful, tender look at a family devastated by grief.”—BookPage
Releases simultaneously in electronic book format (ISBN 978-1-60684-434-2)