A Home for Goddesses and Dogs

HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. Feb. 2020. 400p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062796783.
Gr 5-8–Thirteen-year-old Lydia has experienced more than her fair share of heartache in her young life; her father left the family six years earlier, leaving Lydia with her mother who was dying of a weakened heart. Lydia’s mother homeschooled her so they could treasure their remaining time together, which they did until her death. Now Lydia is uprooted to rural Chelmsford, CT, to live with her mother’s sister Bratches (Brat), Brat’s wife Eileen, and the 90-something landlord of the farm house, Elloroy. The one familiar thing Lydia has brought with her is a box of goddesses—which are collages she and her mother made from old photographs and ephemera from flea markets. The same week Lydia arrives, Brat and Eileen take in a big yellow rescue dog, whom they name Guffer. It seems Guffer is more trouble than he’s worth—he urinates in the house, runs away into the woods, and is scared of everything. Lydia, who is not a dog person, tries to help, but wonders if her new family has an affinity for damaged rescues like herself and the dog. Lydia joins the small 8th-grade class (12 students) at the local school, and despite her initial unwillingness to open her heart, she finds new friends in Sari and Raya. The girls show Lydia how to snowshoe and teach her all about the local farming community. Lydia has secrets that she isn’t yet willing to share with her new friends or family, including her goddesses, the unopened cards from her absent father, ailing pygmy goats, and a first crush. Beautifully woven story lines and characters mesh together as Lydia, Guffer, the goats, and her family all start to heal from the inside out.
VERDICT Connor (Waiting for Normal, The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle) has an innate ability to broach difficult subjects with gentleness, and the myriad strong female characters will be embraced by readers seeking heroines to cheer for.

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