Like the perfect summer mixtape, a coming of age story about hitting the open road and finding yourself along the way.
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Why I love it
Actress and host of "Welcome to the OC, Bitches!" podcast
The bright sunburst on the cover of The People We Keep might make you think this is just another breezy summer read, but don’t be fooled. Between its covers lies a heartbreaker of a story about one wayward teen, the family she finds, and a love of music that keeps her fighting even when the universe won’t stop throwing punches.
We first meet April in the old trailer her father has basically abandoned, living on Pop-Tarts and songwriting, trying desperately to break out of her small town. Then one day chance strikes and April finds herself city-bound. A small fish in a big pond, she nonetheless finds friends, a job at the quaint Cafe Decadence, and even a touch of romance. But April, vulnerable from some hard knocks, can’t seem to let her walls down and love in.
What I loved about this story is the way that April keeps moving to the beat of her own drum despite setbacks and travails. I didn’t agree with every choice she made but I could understand why she made them and it kept me excited on every page to see what she might get up to next. For all the hard questions it poses, The People We Keep is ultimately about resilience, compassion, and the fact that the good folks really are out there—if we can just find the courage to give them a chance.
Little River, New York, 1994: April Sawicki is living in a motorless motorhome that her father won in a poker game. Failing out of school, picking up shifts at Margo’s diner, she’s left fending for herself in a town where she’s never quite felt at home. When she “borrows” her neighbor’s car to perform at an open mic night, she realizes her life could be much bigger than where she came from. After a fight with her dad, April packs her stuff and leaves for good, setting off on a journey to find a life that’s all hers.
Driving without a chosen destination, she stops to rest in Ithaca. Her only plan is to survive, but as she looks for work, she finds a kindred sense of belonging at Cafe Decadence, the local coffee shop. Still, somehow, it doesn’t make sense to her that life could be this easy. The more she falls in love with her friends in Ithaca, the more she can’t shake the feeling that she’ll hurt them the way she’s been hurt.
As April moves through the world, meeting people who feel like home, she chronicles her life in the songs she writes and discovers that where she came from doesn’t dictate who she has to be.
This lyrical, unflinching tale is for anyone who has ever yearned for the fierce power of found family or to grasp the profound beauty of choosing to belong.