4 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
Who would have thought one small child could change so many people and be the thread that tied them all together? When Alicia, the Latina waitress at Clara’s hole-in-the-wall Mexican diner, saw the dirty White girl run out of the ladies’ restroom, she thought she would have a mess to clean up. What she discovered instead was completely unexpected, a tiny caramel-colored baby wrapped in an overcoat discarded on the floor. A Child Left Behind by Phil Hutcheon is the dramatic, touching, and sometimes comical story of little Brianna and the people affected by her abandonment.
The author tells the story with a narrative approach using short chapters with different speakers. Each character tells the story from his or her point-of-view, some sympathetic, some cynical, and some outright liars. They seem to be talking directly to you. There are many crazy characters. We meet Tyreke, the foul-mouthed baby-daddy, Martha, the ex-drug addict born-again Christian, Moua, the virgin Asian college-student who runs a phone-sex business on the side, and Jack, the gun-loving Vietnam veteran who lives in the garage. I loved how each character was so different in their views and speech-pattern.
My favorite character is Alicia, who is a waitress and an illegal immigrant. She tells a heart-breaking tale of how she came to the United States. She is working and going to college to become a doctor. She has dreams and is determined to make something of herself in this new country. She is sympathetic, genuinely warm, and cares deeply about what happens to this discarded child. Another fun character is Clara Birdsong, who is a part-Cherokee widow and owner of the diner. She is a strong independent woman and wants to see Alicia succeed.
This story is mainly about child abandonment, abortion, and adoption, but it also delves into other controversial topics. It shows different sides of drug-use, immigration, military service, police corruption, religion, politics, and even pit-bull ownership. Some of the religious and political viewpoints may be offensive to some readers. However, I found it refreshing the author was unafraid to show all sides and let his characters tell it as they felt.
The things I disliked the most were that some points of the story were incomplete and were left as cliffhangers. The author did this on purpose. He wanted the reader to think about what had happened and decide for himself how the story should end. At the end of the book are “Questions for Discussion” that could be used as a class or book club study guide.
Mr. Hutcheon currently teaches at Delta College, a community college in California. In the “An Interview With The Author” section, he says some of the characters and events in this book come from the real-life stories of his students.
I loved this book and the zany characters. Be warned that some of the characters use much profanity. Because of the language, I would recommend this book for adults only. There is some discussion of sex but no actual sex scenes. This book was written to be honest and has a no-holds-barred attitude. It is sure to be offensive to some, but I hope it will also make people think. This book was professionally edited, and I found no grammatical or spelling errors. I am awarding A Child Left Behind by Phil Hutcheon with 4 out of 4 stars. It deserves this high rating because of the authentic characters, its courage to take on controversial topics, and the unique storyline.
A Child Left Behind
View: on Bookshelves