"When sophomore Leah's beloved older brother, Luce, who was adopted, dies in a car accident, she tries to cope with her overwhelming grief. Did Luce ever want to find his birth parents? Should she look for them? Her best friend and her boyfriend help her carry on, and Dad and her grandma are there for her. Mama, however, is distant... Leah's first-person, present-tense narrative expresses her intense feelings in plain poetic words that express the happy adoptive family story as well as the sorrow, jealous, anger, and love... although there's no neat resolution, and as the book's title makes clear, some people are insensitive and crude when it comes to talking about adoption, Belton's powerful novel opens up the meaning of "real" family." Booklist
"Leah, tenth-grade Chicagoan, and her parents are devastated following the accidental death of Luce, Leah's adopted older brother. Luce had been a particularly gifted and well-liked young man - the light his name indicates. Leah decides to seek Luce's birth family; unexpectedly, her search helps her come to a better understanding of the special relationship Luce and her own parents shared - so special that Leah questions whether her mother loves her as much as she obviously loved Luce. While she is engaged in finding Luce's family, she begins a relationship with Aaron, a gentle, understanding boy who contributes to her healing. Leah's voice is consistent throughout, and her misery and confusion are palpable... Cultural cues and passing descriptions suggest to the reader that Leah and her family are African American; however, the ethnicity of the characters is not a factor in this story where the pain of loss and the healing power of truth and love are the primary themes." Horn Book Review
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.40(d)|
|Age Range:||12 - 17 Years|
About the Author
Sandra Belton is the author of the Ernestine & Amanda series, the novels Store-Bought Baby and McKendree, and several picture books, including From Miss Ida's Porch, Pictures for Miss Josie, and Beauty, Her Basket. Sandra Belton grew up in West Virginia and now lives in Chicago, Illinois.
Read an Excerpt
By Sandra Belton
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Sandra Belton
All right reserved.
Bibi looks up from the pictures spread across her lap. "Leah, would you mind slipping out there to get me something to eat?"
I don't want to leave the room, even for my grandmother. But I keep that out of my voice and don't look at her when I answer. "What do you want?"
"Whatever. There's food from one end of that kitchen to the other. Just pick up a little something I can munch on."
I want her to be more specific. A piece of fruit? A slice of cake or pie? Something like a sandwich? But I don't ask Bibi anything else. I guess I'm glad she's thinking about something besides the pile of pictures she's been fingering through ever since she sat down. Luce in a Santa hat. The picture for the Christmas card that year.
Luce with both grandmothers. Bibi and Grandma Myrtle.
Luce and me running into the ocean that first time.
Luce with Cliff at Great America.
Luce, Luce, Luce.
Luce in a Santa hat. The picture for the Christmas card that year.
I close the door behind me when I leave Bibi's room. Before I even take three steps, I can see that people are still everywhere. Groups of them all over the house. Talking. Eating. Eating and talking.
"Dr. Ash's message was quite comforting, don't you think? I mean, under the circumstances."
Mrs. Lacy. Wearingthat strong perfume. How can she stand it?
"That's the plant we sent. See? Over there, next to the piano."
What difference does it make, Mrs. Cass? Who really cares?
I say nothing. I keep my head down and my eyes on the floor and walk through the crowd as fast as I can. Past my room. Down the hall. Through the dining room. I'm tempted to look around just to see if Mahri came over after the services like everyone else, but I don't. I hope that not looking anywhere will keep everyone out of my face. Make it easier for me to ignore anyone calling my name.
I get to the kitchen and see that Bibi's right. Food covers every inch of counter and table space. Covered platters and casserole dishes. Cakes and pies wrapped in clear plastic. Baskets of fruit. Crates of pop and six-packs of water bottles. Bags and boxes of chips. Cookies. Food's even stacked up in corners where there's no table or counter space. Food is everywhere just like the people.
When I stop and wonder what I can pick up quick that Bibi would want, I start feeling sick just seeing all that food. Before I can move again, a hand from someone standing in the kitchen grabs onto me.
"Leah." The hand is hot on my arm, even through my sweater. "Baby, you want me to fix you something?"
It's Mrs. Clark. The lady from the Missionary Guild who's always around after funerals to be in charge of food. She plants herself in front of me and I know I have to look at her.
"Here, let me make you a nice plate. Would you like some roast beef? We have a delicious ham, already sliced. Let's see. . . ." Mrs. Clark swoops across the food, pulling off wraps like she's uncovering a treasure. She stops in front of the biggest find of all and unrolls the foil slowly. Carefully. "Ahhhh," she breathes. "How about a nice turkey plate? This golden bird's been waiting for somebody to take a juicy bite." She pulls at a platter holding the biggest turkey I've ever seen in my life.
The sunlight slicing through the kitchen blinds makes me squint. It lands on curls pinned at the top of Mrs. Clark's head. Her wig. Reddish gold curls in the yellow light.
Suddenly the light makes me dizzy. Mixed up. I know I'm still standing there in front of her and Beast Turkey. I still hear her asking me what I want, but her voice is fading away and somehow I'm not really there with her at all.
It's impossible, I know, but I begin to see Luce where Mrs. Clark is standing. My brother. In that exact spot. The broken slices of sun coming through blinds are landing on his head, turning the tips of his silky brown curls into strands of reddish gold. I squint harder.
It was Thanksgiving morning. Luce had come to the kitchen to help Mama. Because of their deal. If he helped fix dinner, he would be able to leave early to have dessert with Mahri. His girlfriend. At her house.
Mama told Luce to wash the turkey and pat it dry. He made a face. "Aw, Ma, not that." He pushed up against Mama. "You said there was a lot to do. Give me a job that doesn't involve this . . . this bird."
"And why on earth not?"
"Come on, Ma. You know I'm a vegetarian. Don't ask me to handle this poor dead animal." Luce reached across Mama and took the little knife and half-peeled potato out of her hands. "Here. Let me do this. Cut up the potatoes. Food for the righteous."
Mama sucked her teeth. "Boy, you and that vegetarian obsession both are getting on my nerves." She nudged Luce away from the sink with her hip and reached for the turkey. "You just make sure I don't see you anywhere near the dressing. I'm not stuffing it into the turkey, but I'm making it with turkey broth. And I'm adding sausage to one batch of dressing and oysters to the other."
Luce stood there in his pajamas and bare feet, grinning. "Better add some more potatoes to that pile, Ma." He twirled his perfect peeling curl in Mama's face. "I got a feeling my dinner plate's gonna look like a snow-covered mountain this year."
A breath's worth of silence. The sideways looks at each other. Then the bursts of laughter. High and low. The Mama and Luce routine. I remember.
Excerpted from Store-Bought Baby by Sandra Belton Copyright © 2006 by Sandra Belton. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
What a lovely, touching book! This book explores the meaning of a child's death in a family. The grief is so real. I loved this book and will recommend it to my teenage girls who love sad stories. It would also be good for someone who has lost a family member.
The loss of a child is always a terrible shock to a family, but Leah is profoundly affected by the accidental death of her older adopted brother, Luce. She questions her parents' love for her and how she compares to her near perfect brother. Did his birth parents know what they have missed....did Luce ever wonder about his birth parents? The very shy and introverted Leah decides to try to find out about her brother's biological parents and about the adoption.
Mom seems to be lost in her own world and locked away with the memories of her beautiful boy. Leah's father is coping with the loss much better, and her grandmother, Bibi, helps Leah to accept this turning point in her life most of all. Leah decides that knowing more about Luce's birth family and perhaps finding them will help her to cope with her loss. Her best friend and Luce's girlfriend aid in her search, and when her parents realize what her goal is, they begin to share the details of the adoption with her. Did Luce ever want to find his birth parents? Should she look for them?
Sandra Belton writes with sensitivity about a difficult subject, and her characters are believable and sympathetic. In her first-person, present-tense narrative, Belton expresses Leah's intense feelings in heartbreaking prose that shows her sorrow, jealousy, anger, and love, and defines a "real" family.
This would be an especially meaningful story for any teen who is adopted, or has adopted siblings, but the tragedy of losing a loved one is universal, and the message of parental love in this story is one that will long live in your memory.