If You Come Softly by Jacaqline Wilson
What it's about:
If You Come Softly, is the story of Elisha and Jeremiah or, as they prefer, Ellie and Miah. Ellie is white and jewish and Miah is black. They both attend Percy Academy, where they bump into each other, literally. Both recognize something in the other, and they fall in love.
Why I read it:
I picked this up at the library because I caught the end of Jacqueline Woodson's talk at The National Book Festival and she was amazing. As was the section she read from another of her books, Feathers.
What I thought:
I really loved If You Come Softly. It's a quick read but hugely powerful. The story unfolds in alternating chapters, told from Ellie and Miah's differing perspectives. So the reader gets to see how both of them reacted to their first meeting and to the unfolding of their relationship, which I really enjoyed.
If You Come Softly tackles some difficult issues but it never feels like they are reason for the story. I always felt Ellie and Miah and their feelings for one an other and their families was the main story and that's what drew me along. Having said that, the book certainly makes you think about race, because of course it does become an issue in their relationship. Due to how the outside world reacts to them. This is where the alternating view point is most effective, as we get to see both Ellie and Miah's reaction to the curiosity and hostility their relationship provokes.
There were many lines from the books that made me pause and made me think and perhaps opened my eyes a little because, like Ellie, I rarely think about being white. The one line that really struck me, and I'm sorry to have to paraphrase but the book went back to the library today, is where Miah's remebering his father telling him as a young boy "You never ever run in a white neighbourhood, never." Which just struck me as unbelievably sad.
This would be a brilliant book for a book club. There are so many issues it brings up that I want to talk about, especially the end, but as they all involve spoilers I won't do it here.
I'll just say read it and then get someone you know to read it so you can talk about it, because you'll really want to.