If you Come Softly is first a teenage love story. Jeremiah Roselind, son of a famous filmmaker and a novelist, and Ellie Eisen, daughter of a doctor and SAHM, have one of those instantaneous love stories. One brief and awkward encounter leave them both with lingering thoughts about each other. At first, the most prevalent thought is that he's Black and she's white/Jewish. Although they get over this difference quickly, strangers don't and whether their families will is questionable. What unfolds in this story is a sometimes naive, yet sweet, youthful romance that explores racial identity and stereotypes with an unexpected ending.
I was so engrossed in this fast paced read and not sure of what I wanted to happen in the end. What did happen, I was so not prepared for. Of course, in retrospect, I do recall a bit of foreshadowing that was very subtle. This is a testament to Woodson's narrative skills. She gives hints that don't make things predictable. However, the ending still pissed me off. Woodson, why'd you have to break my heart like that?
This is a story that, for its implications of race, adults might actually learn more from. Today's young people are growing up in such multi-ethnic/multicultural societies that they have already gotten over it. It's the adults that seem to still carry the burden. What young people will get from this book, though, is that "time comes to us softly, slowly. It sits beside us for a while. Then, long before we are ready, it moves on." Carpe Diem!
Note to Susan: Thanks for the recommendation. I'm looking forward to reading more by Jacqueline Woodson. I got a copy of From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun for the read-a-thon.