Just A Regular Boy, a review by Joanna

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Just A Regular Boy

Catherine Ryan Hyde

Lake Union Publishing

336 pages

Published on May 2, 2023


This is the latest heartwarming family drama from one of my favourite authors. Somehow she manages to publish two of these lovely stories every year, without them ever feeling stale or repetitive. This doesn’t come out for months yet, but I needed a guaranteed Good Read after my last disappointing read, and she’s the closest I know to a literary Sure Thing. Somehow she combines similar elements – a brave, thoughtful young person, a sad or challenging situation, a new friendship, and animals, and still keeps her stories both haunting and hopeful. I read this in less than a day, and once more fell in love with her characters.

Remy is only five when his paranoid widowed survivalist father Roy takes him to live in a remote cabin in the Idaho wilderness, to escape the “conflagration” he’s sure is coming. For a while they do manage to live in complete isolation, but then Roy dies, and Remy is left on his own. When he finally runs out of food, he is forced to venture back into the civilisation he’s been taught to fear. Injured, mute and terrified, he needs a protector. Luckily, a few hours away in Boise, experienced foster mother Anne has decided she needs to find another child to rescue, in spite of her rocky marriage. With patience, kindness and love, two wounded souls will help each other heal.
“There was a hole in “home.” It felt as though this odd little adventure was her best shot at filling that hole, though she knew in her conscious brain that the hole was in her, and not in the house or the family.”
This is told from Rémy and Anne’s alternating viewpoints. The first chapters are tough to read – I felt so angry at Roy, for willingly inflicting such a harsh environment on a young child, but you know from the blurb that Roy’s not going to survive. He’s not abusive, just deluded, but his neglect makes for harrowing scenes. Anne’s an interesting character – initially prickly and one track minded with her saviour complex, but my sympathies grew as we learn what made her so driven to welcome damaged children into her home. The relationship with her husband Chris was believable and moving: “ “I know how important it is to you,” he said. In that moment it came into Anne’s head, for the first time in a very long time, that her marriage might just be strong enough to hold up after all.” And I loved the way Remy’s new adopted siblings take him under their wing, and the smart kindly therapist Dr Klausner.
There weren’t any great surprises as to how this would turn out, but she manages to include a number of serious topics without this becoming depressing or dull. It’s set during the first year of the pandemic, and includes relevant details without dwelling on it. As ever, the young central character can seem too good to be true – the pace of Remy’s recovery was somewhat hard to believe, but hey, it’s Christmas and I enjoyed the warm fuzzies.
4.5 rounded up. Thanks to NetGalley and Lake House Publishing for the ARC – and especially for making it Read Now! I am posting this honest review voluntarily.

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